The style of Paris, the romance of Provence and the energy of New York are perfectly synchronized in Catherine Malandrino’s design aesthetic.
Before starting her own company, Malandrino worked for a variety of couture labels, including Dorothée Bis, Louis Féraud and Emanuel Ungaro. The Parisian designer moved to New York in late 90s, where she was the senior designer and creative director for Diane von Furstenberg. In 1998, she presented her first Collage Collection and has never looked back.
Malandrino’s name is synonymous with chic. Her collections are now carried all over the world in standalone boutiques and major stores like Saks Fifth Avenue. She has also been described in the French press as the most photographed French woman in America after the Statue of Liberty. Malandrino is one of America’s most successful designers, who also always remembers to give back and participates in a lot of major charity campaigns, including CFDA where she is currently a member.
In The Holiday Issue, she chats with us about the opening of her first Canadian store, her design inspirations and her love for citrus-yellow.
ADA YAKOBI: You opened your first store in Canada last month and came to Montréal for the big launch. How did you like the city?
CATHERINE MALANDRINO: It’s very nice to see the country’s double culture, people speak French and English, and I think it is what I expected when I was planning to come here – to really find the city on a human scale of a mix of Paris and New York.
You have a very distinct style. What inspires your aesthetic and its evolution?
I think it’s about timeless elegance. I mean, femininity as a strength, not as a weakness. I like a woman who repeats a little bit of her personality through clothes and, for me, it means that I’m always using cutouts, tulle, lace. It’s a different way to speak about yourself, your emotions, your sensibility – revealing just enough skin without being too obvious, to give a lot of ease to the silhouette, so that women have clothes that are effortless and can be in their wardrobe for a long time.
Yellow colour plays an important role in your branding. What significance does it have?
It’s the ray of light in my life, I need to be inspired. Looking at the light is always a great, positive inspiration and I always need to be surrounded by yellow citrus.
You always wear your own pieces. Could you tell us a little more about the outfit you are wearing today?
It’s an outfit that I feel very covered and totally nude in at the same time! I feel covered because it’s long-sleeved, it fits close to my body and feels warm because it’s wool and lace. And, at the same time, it’s lined with skin-coloured tulle. I’m not naked, however, I know that I’m revealing my figure, but keeping it elegant and chic. I put lycra in the legging, so it feels very effortless, very comfortable.
Is there anything you would never wear?
Not really. I think what doesn’t fit me is just regular, casual clothes because I like to express a little more of me through my [clothing] choices. I really encourage women to show a little more of their personality and femininity when they pick clothes.
How do you choose what to wear? Is it based on your mood?
I like clothes that are like your accomplice, your best friend: clothes that are next to you, that you love the touch of and you like the easiness of. It has to be a no-brainer because life is complicated enough, clothes have to be simple but, at the same time, simple for me doesn’t mean boring. Simple has to have this level of edge and curiosity that makes people wonder more about yourself.
In 2002, Sex and the City featured your store. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
I think I’ve been very lucky in my career to be meeting a lot of amazing people who have been embracing my clothes or my aesthetic, and helping me. You never achieve anything by yourself.
I’m very thankful for all these fabulous encounters with women like Mary J. Blige and Madonna and, more recently, Katy Perry, Beyonce and Taylor Swift. These women embrace the clothes, wear them on stage, and feel very unique and special when wearing them. It means a lot to me.
At the same time, I’m best rewarded when I see everyday-women on the street, wearing and mixing clothes that they bought a few years ago from me with a new piece from my collection, because I know I’m part of their lives, I’m part of their wardrobe.
And you worked with Diane Von Furstenberg in the 90s.
An amazing woman, an inspiration forever.
Do you still keep in touch?
Yes, yes, of course. We are friends and I’m a big admirer of her work.
What is one item in your wardrobe that you can’t live without?
A jumpsuit. I think it’s an ultimate, very modern piece that you can wear – no-brainer for going from work to the evening.
You debuted a line of jewelry a few years ago, could you tell us a little bit more about it?
There are a few accessories that I design each season that are an extension of the clothes that are made with the same idea of being bold, fearless and strong. They are statement pieces. They are always [about] texture, craftsmanship, making the pieces very memorable.
Do you think fashion it something that has to be inspired?
Fashion has to bring dreams, it has to inspire women to be more beautiful in a better world. Assuming their life is simpler but, at the same time, it has to emphasize their character. I like to create this personal relationship between the woman and the clothes, and the way they live together.
You travel quite a lot. Is there a particular city that you feel is more fashionable than any other place you’ve been to?
Well, a lot of cities have a lot to bring: it can be from Sao Paulo to Shanghai to Moscow. I really have two loves: Paris and New York.
Last year, you launched a different line and next year you’re going to be receiving the Chevalier des Arts et de la Culture from the French Minister of Culture. How do you feel about that?
I’m very honoured and I think it’s a lot of responsibility to become ambassadress of the French culture, but if I can share my love for craftsmanship and style with women worldwide then I would be very happy to inspire them and continue to do so.
Is there a special message you would like to send out?
Be really fearless in life and be able to expose yourself. Express yourself with clothes through your lifestyle. Clothes are here to help you exist, they are here to serve you, they are here to reveal the best of yourself; learn how to use it and appreciate it. Keep them for a long time. When you have a chance to find who you are, make sure to cultivate your own personality.
What is the concept behind your new boutique in Montréal?
[I wanted] to create a lot of space that is very clean, bright and open but, at the same time, to bring the glamourous Paris lifestyle to it: with mirrors, citrus yellow, and reflection of matte and shiny materials.
What are your plans for the future?
I think this move to Canada is quite a new experience and I’m looking forward to seeing the response of Canadian women!