Being avid fans of knitwear (even in spring), we decided to catch up with one of our favorite purveyors of the knit, Monsieur Lacenaire. Of course, that’s not all they do. But they do the knit very well indeed and have added a steadily increasing range of clothing to add to their staple item. We spoke with Garance Broca, who along with Benoist Husson (pictured above on the left), makes up the team of Monsieur Lacenaire. We spoke about their latest additions, whether growing too quickly is trouble disguised as a blessing and the importance of wool. Take a leap to read the interview.
What is the latest collection influenced by?
The Fall/Winter 2014 collection is influenced by the connection between the city and the roughness of nature. We have jumpers with storm and mountain patterns along with different garments referencing the cycling universe.
For example, there’s a parka inspired from old-fashion cycling parkas that have suspenders inside to be able to take off your coat as you cycle. You can then wear the coat only with the suspenders, then those same suspenders become shoulder straps when you turn the coat inside out, transforming the coat into a backpack.
Also, we added a removable strap belt of our chino trousers, so you can put it on your ankle to protect the trousers from the grease of the bicycle drive. These items are practical in all situations whether it’s bad weather or spending a long time outside. It’s for gentlemen that can leave home early morning on their bike without knowing where they might end up. For instance, they might be meeting some friends at a concert, so they need to be prepared. They need to feel that they will be comfortable in all situations.
What have been some of the challenges of growing Monsieur Lacenaire?
The main challenge is time management. I love to challenge myself in other ways than design. I need to see the big picture. So, when the collection grows, there is also more to deal with in production and marketing and communication and so on. Dealing with more and more stockists is difficult but we get more organized and more practical.
Above all, I love to interact with interesting people. This adventure that we are living is not only a way to explore creativity, but it’s also a way to encounter globe trotters that share the same passion as ours and with whom we share projects. Recently, we started working on the summer festival Baleapop in the south of France. We developed a capsule collection for them that will be retailed also at Beams in Tokyo.
You’ve used baby alpaca and merino wools before. Have you experimented with other types of wools?
Actually, I’ve found it more interesting to discover all the variety of wool that you can have. From shetland, which is more rough, to very soft merino wool that have an almost cashmere feel to it. Sometimes how the mill has selected the fiber and treated the yarn is more important than the animal itself.
Do you still define yourself as a knitwear brand?
I most definitely define myself as a knitwear fanatic. I’m always looking for new stitches and ways to create a surprising shape out of it. Like the Storm jumper where a 1/2 cardigan stitch will look like rain if I knit an umbrella shape beneath it. Or a traditional Irish aran stitch will create a pin tree shape. Also, I like to challenge myself with the geometry in the knitting, like in the Eiger jacquard where I play around with different ways to knit Christmas trees. Knitwear remains the genuine heart of the collection.
Why did you introduce shirts and trousers?
When I started, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I presented a selection of knitwear that I thought was clever and quirky but pretty soon, as success occurred, people requested a whole wardrobe. I guess I mainly did it to understand what kind of people the brand was aiming at. And, more simply, to finish off the look.
It turns out, I found very interesting challenges in shirts, trousers or any kind of new item like — more recently — the parka. I created some details that became a signature of the brand, like the Twisted Pocket shirt. And this season, where we added the aforementioned cycling strap in the belt of our chinos.
Is growing too quickly an issue?
Indeed. Growing quickly is a big challenge because we have to take major decisions on an almost daily basis. But we try to stay focused on staying creative and sleek, keeping our quirky patterns while being a very wearable brand. So growing quickly is, mainly, a delight. The most important [thing] is that our partners are very faithful like Colette or Bon Marché in Paris or Beams, Edifice in Japan. It means that we’re doing a great job and they can rely on us.
Plans for the future?
We have our first Monsieur Lacenaire store cooking, so stay tuned!