Catherine Malandrino

Simultaneously nostalgic and modern, her creations, like the women who wear them, exude a certain je ne sais quo

Fashion designer Catherine Malandrino epitomizes sophistication and femininity. Splitting time between Paris and New York, she has an eye for urban chic coupled with immaculate technique. Born in Grenoble, France, Malandrino graduated from Esmod (l’Ecole Supérieure des Arts et techniques de la Mode), before designing in the couture tradition under Louis Féraud and Emanuel Ungaro in Paris. She then oversaw sportswear at Et Vous before moving on to relaunch the Diane Von Furstenberg collection in New York, 1998. That same year, she founded her own fashion house. Her most recent collection for Fall 2008 premiered during New York’s Fashion Week and included the launches of her men’s and jewelry collections.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?
At what point did you establish a design identity & has it changed or evolved since then? What first inspired me to become a fashion designer was the desire to bring delicacy, harmony, and happiness to a woman’s life. As a creative woman, I established a code of my work very early. I always combine what a women needs for herself so it is expressed through the way she dresses. I design for a woman that dares to use all the code of femininity to assert her personality. Design is a work in progress and a constant evolution.

Who is the Catherine Malandrino woman?
My ideal woman marries the romance of Paris with the rhythm of New York. For Fall 2008, you site Claude and Francois Xavier Lalanne as inspiration. How did you did you relate to their work? I have been inspired by the simplicity and the poetry of their work for a very long time. I love the harmony the couple has translated into their artwork. Essentially everything in the Lalannes’ art revolves around love and harmony. It is emotionally moving. I love the romanticism of the dove, the balance of delicacy and lightness, the contrast of the subject, and the strength of the material. I had a similar approach in my last collection that was inspired by nature. I love the contrast of growing veins embroidered on silk chiffon, the treatment of organza-like foliage, the combination of leather embroidered with leaves, and the opened weave knit dress. The bag and clutch are treated like a bouquet of greens, while the jewelry is created with rough and oversized minerals to bring back the idea of unique ornamentation. I create jewelry that becomes part of a women’s silhouette, not an accessory. Nature’s perfume is in the Fall collection.

As lead designer of several collections, (designer and contemporary, women, men’s, shoes, handbags, and jewelry) how do you go about your work process?
Everything starts with an emotion, a color palette and an image. I was inspired by the symbol of freedom in the American Flag from the movie Easy Rider, the spirit of Harlem in the show Hallelujah and the art in the peaceful village of Saint Paul de Vence in Provence for my La Colombe show. I think about the full mood and the silhouette. I love to drape, cut, and trim, to play with color and to create texture with fabrics.

What kind of boundaries do you try to cross with fashion?
I always have in mind to dress a real woman that has femininity and strength. This woman plays the role of a lover, wife and mother. I want to help her express her personality and emotion through her clothes.

What are you working on this week?
I have already started to work on my two collections for the next 2009 Spring season. It is a spiritual and inspirational process that never ends for me. My mind is always curious and awake! At the same time we are opening several stores in 2008: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Istanbul. I am particularly excited about the next opening of Malandrino Maison on Melrose Place. This boutique will create a full living experience and allow me to express my creativity beyond clothes. Malandrino Maison will include a café and library, and will showcase my two collections, accessories, furniture, and a made-to-measure tuxedo line for men. I am excited to create a full experience!

-Michael Cohen
photography Wendelien Daan

Reading by Lena, who has no idea this palm belongs to Catherine Malandrino

1. Not a gambler but a free-thinker, who risks thinking outside the box.

2. A gentle soul with delicate tastes and sensibilities with an aesthetic more than emotional sensitivity.

3. Satisfaction comes from perceiving beauty in unusual or odd places.

4. Capable of deep and lasting romantic love with an exceptional person, but not likely to be wildly demonstrative in expressing it.

5. Excellent, detail-oriented intellectual capabilities, but suffers from a tendency to become overly distracted by details causing sleepless nights.

6. Lots of vitality, even overactivity, during their prime, but will want time for quiet contemplation later in life.

7. Does not have a high-strung nervous system. Tends to remain calm under intense pressure.