What is more decadent than commissioning a work of art? It being fully sustainable, too. Get exclusive insight into designer Lucas Meyer-Leclère’s creative process as my journey to get a dress made landed me on the catwalk for his fashion show.
Slow Fashion is the New Luxury
I love the fabric on a friend’s old Etro blazer – it is a beautiful black velvet damask with dragons and unicorns – and wanted to make something out of it for a special event. But I didn’t just need a tailor to make alterations, I needed a designer with a vision to transform it into something else. Creative consultant Claudia Hoffmann had turned me onto the designer Lucas Meyer-Leclère a couple of seasons ago and I fell in love with the person and his work. With years of experience designing textiles at Chanel and accessories at Jimmy Choo, he founded his eponymous label of retailored unique pieces and a fully sustainable tailored line here in Berlin. I like the way he weaves between different modes of creativity in his work, deconstructing and painting and retailoring, adding value with each artist intervention. When she suggested him for the project, it sounded perfect, so we made an appointment to go to his atelier together.
Lucas spontaneously started to drape t-shirts on me, to cut them out on my body, eyeing the fabric not unlike a vulture its prey. He gave me 6-inch platform heels he had painted by hand and asked me to walk in them. He kept on cutting and adjusting through our easy banter, asking me how I felt in it, what I would change. He watched me move, observed the play of colors from the afternoon light through the stained glass windows. In no time, he had whipped up a t-shirt dress, edgy top, and punk sheath. On one of the racks laid the toile of a kilt. Without knowing it, I had become a sort of house model and muse. Claudia draped the kilt on me as a cape, and a coat, and a dress. We had so much fun trying things out, Lucas asked if I would walk his upcoming show. It’s the heels: They make the animal.
I said yes, of course, though it’s been a minute since I walked shows in New York, but it’s always fun and I love it, so count me in! It was nice to be asked because I am at an age one no longer discloses and it’s as if people start to stroll /scroll past women from a certain age and filter us out. Beyond marketing strategies and our evolutionary programming to be attracted to youth, digital tools and social media have skewed our visual habits of perception by photoshopping everyone’s images, so that we have an unrealistic expectation of aging. Thank goodness there’s a movement pushing back on that, with strong women embracing their aging and doing it with beauty and dignity, like Pamela Anderson rocking Paris Fashion Week and Martha Stewart the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. My mottos are: “If hip hop is 50, 50 is the new 30,” and “Grey is the new black.” But, I get it, it’s complicated. As much as one might embrace natural beauty, society places certain pressures on us which we may only be able to shrug off to varying degrees in different contexts.
We are products of socialization. Same as we have been groomed towards one ideal of beauty, we can also be opened up to others, be shown the beauty in diversity. Beauty is in the mind of the beholder. People probably can’t imagine nowadays, but before Kate Moss, skinny was unattractive – growing up in Chicago, I was called “the Great Plains” for being flat chested. But when a designer told me to lose the padded bra because my body is beautiful, I dropped it and years of insecurity. Beauty is as beauty feels and I have loved my body ever since. Fashion does shape our perception of ourselves, so fashion has the responsibility to advocate for diversity and a healthy self image. Berlin has always been a hotbed for diversity casting, it is a part of our DNA, and Lucas celebrates the wide range of characters in his community on the catwalk.
At the fitting the day before the show, I couldn’t believe Lucas had pulled it all together within three weeks. The blazer he cut from a sustainable wool in Italy felt so made for me, I felt so Zendaya in it. It just sat right, fit right, and the custom, individually sculpted silver cufflinks were weighted perfectly so that everything sat right, fit right.
However, the pleated cape did nothing for me worn off the shoulders. I’m a tiny girl and it made me look like a brick wall, so we tried it with the Audrey Hepburn neckline, which was quite chic. Claudia then tilted it asymmetrically, leaving one of my shoulders exposed, which turned it all of a sudden into an elegant evening dress. There was just the question of what to do with the back …because it was wide open. We pinned it closed, but it moved so beautifully open that I offered: “I have nice underwear.” Lucas loved the idea. Anyway, everyone in the front row and on the red carpet is wearing statement briefs since Miu Miu declared it so. You can style it however you like, be it with shorts or a skirt or even a dress underneath, etc. You can also wear it as a cape opening in the front, or as a kilt worn on the hips. I love such versatile items that you can style multiple ways – they’re great to travel with.
The day of the show, Sam Hill from Inclover Agency meticulously crafted a face “mask” out of latex and sequins directly on my face. Think Venice does Berlin. Opening my eyes, I embraced the transformed look, feeling like a predator. I love the power of good hair and makeup. The mask gave me a layer of invisibility, a layer of invincibility, and the silver hair added a villainous touch. Backstage was bustling but relaxed, which speaks to Lucas and the team’s easy camaraderie. The 6-inch, Christian Dior snakeskin platform sandals on an uneven floor were a great excuse to cling onto Mahmut, my handsome model partner, when we had to hold the pose during the performance by Theo Just, a dancer from the Berlin Staatsballett. The show ended in an exuberant dance party in true Berlin style, with our guests streaming onto the dance floor to join us.
Shortly before the museum opening, I went back to the atelier to follow up on our project with the unicorn/dragon blazer. My only stipulation had been to preserve the dragon. Lucas couldn’t wait to start cutting. It felt sacrilegious, but ultimately liberating. The result is this unique, custom-made dress that is an exemplar of completely sustainable retailoring. And a testament to the creative process, giving new life and more value to a preloved garment through artist intervention. In a world of spiraling mass consumption and fast fashion, this slow, collaborative, and artistic approach feels truly special. This is luxury: Commissioning your own Lucas Meyer-Leclère piece and wearing a work of art. With everybody chasing new models of experiential shopping and sustainable practice, it’s an exciting proposition to consider. Watch this space and – if you can – gift yourself this one-of-a-kind experience.
Words by Dao Tran