American Retro, created by brothers David and Gregory Pariente launched its first collection in Paris, September 2002. American Retro’s motivation is to uncover and invent new ways to enhance personal style. The design office, directed by Laure Pariente, has grown season after season and has successfully defined the identity of American Retro. The design team focuses their work on finding essential ingredients to personalize the collection with the sentiments of “hand made work” and fabric quality. Intricate embroidery, crochet knits, retro inspired prints, and specialty cashmeres have become recurring characteristics of the brand.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do? My name is Laure Pariente, I am the co-founder and designer of AMERICAN RETRO. I am a 35 years old young woman, married and mother of 4 kids. I am tall and slim which helps me to work in fashion. I move literally and figuratively, I inhale the air of time and of things…that’s how comes naturally my inspiration.
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I am always working on several projects at the same time. I like to be busy… This season I am working in narrow collaboration with a collective of artists in Istanbul named Custom Rebels. Custom Rebels makes handmade designed leather jackets. Each piece has its own story which subscribes itself into time… As part of American Retro identity, we believe that fashion can match with art. It is in that way that we have a common spirit with this brand. Above any collaboration, we consider friendships. Our meeting with the founders of Custom Rebels has been the beginning of an organic collaboration which expressed itself through the capsule collection that we launched. Why? Because water spilled can never be retrieved!
How did your interest in art or fashion begin? For me Art and Fashion have always been best friends. I have always considered that Fashion has a piece of Art… even when an art-lover buys art, it’s called “collecting”, when a fashion enthusiast buys clothing, it’s called “shopping.” Art is supposed to be timeless and important, while fashion is understood to be ephemeral and frivolous. Despite this much-litigated list of ontological differences between art and fashion, the two are cross-pollinating more than ever.
From Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali in the 1930s to Marc Jacobs and Richard Prince, fashion designers and artists joining forces, it’s not a new phenomenon. But the movement is surging each season, and now retailers like Barneys New York are also getting on board.
In a list of collaborations, between art and fashion there is a bit of blurring that happens. There are moments when a designer becomes an artist or artist become designer, or both entities become something different entirely. Most of the time Art and Fashion are the reflect of the society… Some the mixture between Art and fashion are more successful than others, but what is primarily important is the dabbling, the mixing, and fantastic results that come from the fanciful play of the privileged creative.
#1 fashion don’t? I hate wedged sneakers.
If you had to explain your work or brand to a stranger, what would you say? The appeal of American Retro is its complete coherence. Its DNA does not refute its name, which immediately sets a tone, an attitude more than a dictate that mixes decades, taking only the best from each, using its conventions of elegance and exuberance, in short—modernity. For me, it is important to see what was done in the past in order to be able to adapt and modernize it. I’m a real fan of the 70s and 90s. Vintage is a great source of inspiration that must be exploited. I love clothing that has already had a life and I love giving it a new lease of life. My curiosity is all encompassing: I love to travel, rock, US style, but also comfort. My mantra is “being comfortable in your clothes.” I imagine a girl who is comfortable with her body and life, who has things to wear with sneakers or heels, that can be mixed and matched depending on her mood and who invents her own unique style. “The American Retro girl is free, she stands out, she is daring. She is not afraid to be forward and wants to have her say about fashion.”
What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I like combinations of materials, prints, and volumes, just as in life I like combining my work as a designer, wife and mother. For me, “style is a state of mind, not a goal.” An off-the-wall way of being yourself and asserting your individuality. A tuxedo jacket with black sequins worn with silver cracked leather trousers, a little fur coat with a pink vinyl jumpsuit, neoprene with all the fluidity of a dress, a little feather jacket worn with a PVC pencil skirt, or better still with jeans and a printed sweatshirt…
Each American Retro collection is designed, experienced and worn as an adventure in which the woman plays whichever role she has chosen… One day Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, another Sharon Stone in Casino, Olivia Newton-John in Grease, Marisa Berenson in the seventies, or even Michael Jackson. But more than anything she is herself—wherever she goes.
What artists or designers are you interested in? I am always impressed by designer collections such as Karl Lagarfeld for Chanel, Nicolas Guesquiere for Louis Vuitton or Marc Jacobs for Marc by Marc Jacobs, but I am much more sensitive about a new designer collection or universe such as Penny Noland, Marques Almeida, Meat Clothing, and Friend of Mine.
What’s your favorite thing about your city? According to me, Paris is a feminine city. Paris retains more delicate features than most of the major capitals. People are more quiet, reserved and maybe a little more high maintenance, on average, than the rest of the world. Also, I will never tire on its architectural jewels…
What are your thoughts about the fashion scene in Paris? Paris is a city of culture and history, but we can find also an incredible energy of creativity. A lot of new talents come to explore Paris because they know that Paris is the best place to express their own creativity. Paris is known and recognized as one of the most important actors of fashion…Paris inspires creativity… When you walk from Saint-Germain to Montmartre you discover and rediscover places, scents, shops… Fashion Week is a highly anticipated time and gives an incredible energy to the city…
What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? I eat soba every day along with sake or not, depends on the day! I also drink cold press juice everyday with beetroots.
What are you really excited about right now? I am excited to work with the artistic team of Novembre Magazine. Indeed Florence Tétier is the Creative Director, editor in chief & co-founder of this magazine.nGeorgia Pendlebury is also the Fashion Director of the magazine.
If you hadn’t become a designer what do you think you’d be doing? I think I would have done a job in relation with children.
What are you listening to right now? I have an eclectic taste in music, which means I like a lot of different styles and artists rather than following only one genre. Music spans continents and time. It touches upon my deepest emotions. It enlivens every happy event, and moves me when I am sad. Fashions such as music express my uniqueness. Sometimes it makes me feel good about myself and sometimes a little less. The link between fashion and music is not accidental; it is inevitable.
Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? Browns Fashion (multibrand shop located in London) said: American Retro pushes the boundaries of retro elegance and future cool with laidback silhouettes and tongue-in-cheek print.