The world has quickly transformed into an increasingly complex place. Everyone is moving at the speed of light and trying to stay abreast with the latest tweet, Instagram pic, Facebook post, Meerkat stream or God knows what. What did human beings before all these things became so integral to our collective culture? Well, we are starting to notice that in fashion at least, designers are really trying to slow things down to get back to producing quality items that don’t have to be rushed out with every new blogger cycle. There’s something to be said for a well-conceived, unrushed product and that’s exactly what French designer/footwear maker Camille Tanoh is all about. He has even taken this philosophy a step further by eschewing the harsh restraints of designing by season. Oh, and we should add that he cut his teeth at Balenciaga and Pierre Hardy, so it’s fair to say that he certainly knows what he’s talking about. Read on below …
“The process doesn’t have to be the same each time …”
When did you start your brand and what is the philosophy behind the products you create?
I started the label in 2012 with one single pair of shoes: the Saturday afternoon man shoe (above). The idea was to approach fashion like Henry Ford, with a standard approach. After that came the proper sneaker collection, and more recently, the Monday morning man shoe. The permanent collection embodies the brand’s conceptual approach to contemporary shoes. The story of the permanent collection is essentially the compilation of the three stories that have been brought together and conceptualized through numerous researches and statistics. I am trying to design high end shoes that men want but the prerogative is always the same: how to belong to a group and be unique at the same time. I believe that we are reaching the zenith of complexity and some people are looking for simplicity. Simplicity is one of my mantras.
You are based in Paris – what’s your background; have you been in in Paris all your life?
I was born in Paris, in 1988. I was raised between conservative Paris and and open-minded London. Growing up between those two contrasting cities influenced me to adopt a more open-minded perspective. I studied communication and journalism, and then I taught myself art history. The idea was to combine both, to express myself creatively with a commercial reality.
You had experience at major brands like Pierre Hardy & Balenciaga before starting Camille Tanoh — what did you learn at these two luxury brands that you applied to your own brand?
At Balenciaga, I learned the concept of “elitism” and how to be radical and efficient at the same time. I also discovered the tyranny of the season which I think affects every designer’s creativity. At Pierre Hardy, I learned the desire to design shoes differently. The process doesn’t have to be the same each time. It can start from a sketch or an art reference. Starting the label, I decided to add the art of storytelling.
Who is the Camille Tanoh man – what are his interests and what’s his attitude towards style?
Ideally, a cultural creative, an intellectualist, an innovator, an art enthusiast, a tastemaker and a “mover & shaker”. Paradoxically, we make shoes with an invisible branding for people that want to leave a mark, feel special, alive, competent and respected being themselves. You do not wear CT to be trendy, liked, noticed or safe. The CT man has an unquestionable taste when it comes to style, art and fashion in general. He is brand loyal, not philosophical. He knows what he wants. It’s hard to convince him.
Where are the shoes made and how many people take part in the design process?
The shoes are handmade is one of the best factories in Portugal. I conceptualize and design the product.
Tell us about your spring and fall 2015 collections – what are the major highlights?
I have skipped that season on purpose. I want to break the tyranny of the season.
What are the luxury fashion brands you respect the most and aspire to be like in the future?
No offense but I do not watch other brands. I don’t want to be the new somebody. I want to be the first Camille Tanoh.
With your own style, how would you describe your look and what are some labels you constantly shop from?
I wear the same black uniform: a pair of black jeans from Neutre, Paris, a black sweater from the Soloist over a black t-shirt from Uniqlo. Then I always wear my black hat.
Are there any special Camille Tanoh projects/expansions coming in the future?
Yes, the Monday morning man shoe – the film.
For those who haven’t discovered your brand yet, give us one major reason why they should buy a pair of your shoes?
I see my approach of design like an alternative language already spoken by many people. If my design speaks to you, I am sure you will recognize it yourself. But I will never give you a reason to speak that language because it’s a philosophy.
For more information, visit www.camilletanoh.com
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