How A Plant and Social Movements Inspired Simon Lextrait’s New Collection
FEATURE | 30 September 2021
Interview & Text: Celine Lika
Pictures: Courtesy of The Wasted Hour, Courtesy of Simon Lextrait
For his Spring/Summer 2021 collection Perce-Pierre, Simon Lextrait was inspired by a rather inconspicuous plant that grows on rocks and the Chipko Movement from India. To find out more about the story behind Simon’s latest collection, we sat down for a little chat with the designer.
Having moved his studio from Paris to the South of France, Simon Lextrait has discovered the perks of working in ‘the countryside’ compared to a bustling city. ‘Paris was very interesting because I love being influenced by observing the people around me and by what I see on the streets’, Simon says. ‘However, compared to the opulence and mainstream of Paris, here, the work process is slower and more conscious. It’s been nice to build new partnerships and settle in a more calm, healthy environment.’ From his new place, Simon has a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea. ‘Montmartre was nice, too’, he jokes, ‘but this is much more organic and inspiring.’
Matching his new work environment, the new Simon Lextrait Spring/Summer 2021 collection is called Perce-Pierre. This title refers to a plant that belongs to the group of saxifrages or rockfoils and that grows on rocks near the sea. ‘It’s a plant that looks very naive, but at the same time, its roots grow in the tiny slits between rocks, and it is said to have the power to break up huge rocks.’
In a text by the French philosopher Marie José Mondzain, Simon read about how she used this plant as an allegory for small movements that operate quietly under the radar but bring about huge social change. ‘That echoed something else that inspired me for/with my latest collection: I came across the Chipko Movement through a London-based photographer.’ This social movement in India started back in 1973, when a group of women embraced trees to protect them from being cut down to fight against deforestation. They inspired hundreds of thousands to follow their lead.
‘I’m moved by societal issues. That’s why I always focus on human history and folklore in my work process to question humankind within space and time.’ For his Spring/Summer 2021 collection, Simon decided to combine the influences that inspired him. ‘Both the saxifraga and the Chipko Movements show that minority forces and tiny movements have the power to change the course of history and challenge societal concepts,’ he says.
Similarly, Simon uses his collections to change people’s mindsets and challenge certain ideas in society. ‘I want to change the way we look at things. I try to make people question what we wear, while putting poetry and sensitivity as a force into clothes.’ With his collections, he wants to prove that ‘you can bring beauty from frugality, not from opulence.’
When it comes to fabrics, dyes, and colours, Simon is inspired both by the things around him and the specific references for each collection – such as the Chipko movement and saxifrages. ‘I looked at things like textures from India, organic fabrics made from tree cellulose, and the colours of the plant.’ You can see this, for example, with the Caudate Top in Pale Yellow and Light Green, which mirrors the colours of the Perce-Pierre.
Not only does Simon use fabrics that fit the theme of each collection, but he is also working with 60-80% deadstock, which he gets from suppliers in Paris and the South of France. He sources additional fabrics from France and uses innovative material like bamboo viscose jersey. ‘With fabric sourcing and production, everything has to stay in Europe as far as possible, and I try to waste as little material as possible.’ This already starts with the process of cutting the paper for new patterns or the fabric for samples.
Simon also produces everything locally – in-house or in Marseille. ‘I actually get a lot of satisfaction from knowing that my top has only travelled from central France to Marseille to The Wasted Hour in Hamburg.’ When making his clothes, he values handcrafting and avoids using plastic – whether it’s for the cords, hangtags, or the packaging.
Although sustainability is part of every step in the production process for Simon Lextrait, he’s not entirely comfortable with referring to his brand as sustainable. ‘I’m sceptical about trends – they are made to fade, to be replaced. I’m convinced that anything related to sustainability cannot be a trend, but needs to be a way of working, producing, sourcing, and distributing. It’s in the DNA of what you do – not in putting a label on things.’ Everything that Simon does with his clothing is ‘a homage to nature’, he says. ‘So, it wouldn’t make any sense to ruin it by using sustainability for self-promotion.’
Instead, he wants to make sure that his clothes are ‘healthy’ and that they are appreciated for their ‘aura’, as Simon puts it. If a product is made with good intentions, from great materials, under fair conditions, and without travelling for thousands of miles around the planet – so, if you put lots of positive energies in a product, it will last longer.’