From the moment he arrives to our departing cheek kisses, Alexandre Vauthier repeatedly tells me he doesn’t normally venture out for lunch; now that he’s working on his next couture and ready-to-wear collections, the Paris-based designer will cease such leisurely distractions entirely. Today, however, he has time to spare and an appetite to satisfy.
We meet in a gilded lounge at Paris’s stately Four Seasons Hotel George V—appropriately swank for someone whose designs regularly grace such hip-hop royals as Beyoncé, Rihanna and Rita Ora. Like his clientele, even the salads here are cover-worthy; they also cost as much as my weekly groceries.
Since his first couture collection in 2009 (after stints at Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier), Vauthier has increasingly emphasized a street wear–meets–sexpot sensibility, with slit-to-there dresses alongside bejewelled white astrakhan bombers and jackets—couture and ready-to-wear—that are flawlessly tailored to show off a woman’s shape. “Once you master the jacket, you can make anything,” Vauthier tells me. “It’s a risk to do expensive items when you are not that well-known, but clients who buy luxury—you can’t cheat them. I always need to ensure quality.”
Unlike his customers, Vauthier shies away from the spotlight. On a previous visit to his showroom, he downplayed the fact that his black and pink “Surfboard” sweatshirt was a gift from Queen Bey herself. Today, he shows up wearing an unassuming grey Hood by Air ensemble he recently purchased in Los Angeles, where he opted out of schmoozing at the Chateau Marmont in favour of familiarizing himself with the inner city. “In the evenings, it’s totally apocalyptic. But there’s also a creative heart to downtown with lots of artists,” he explains, adding that the tension made an impression. “This idea of violence and rawness—I needed to feel that.”
By the time he starts in on his chicken caesar and I scoop up my sea-bream ceviche, we’re discussing his morning workout—he alternates between punishing sessions with a trainer and jogs in the Tuileries Garden—and it’s the right moment to bring up that (potentially limiting) body-con aesthetic. “When I do a dress that looks good as a sample size, I’m also trying to make sure that the proportion is still nice for a size 12 or 14,” he assures me.
An old-fashioned cart arranged with artful French desserts (think madeleines, Paris-Brest, tarte au citron) has been in Vauthier’s line of vision this entire time, but he expresses regret over his considerable intake of bread and butter. So he makes a promise: “Come to the office later this summer. We will go through the collections quickly and return for dessert.” With pleasure.