The Realities of a Fashion Designer with Alexandre Nicaud


Emily Lane, Bret Schnitker, Alexandre Nicaud


October 24, 2022


Emily Lane 00:10 

Welcome to Clothing Coulture. I'm Emily Lane. 

Bret Schnitker 00:13 

I'm Bret Schnitker. 

Emily Lane 00:14 

We speak with experts where we explore the global dynamics that shape trends in the fashion industry, 

Bret Schnitker 00:21 

Brought to you by Stars Design Group, a global production and design house with over 30 years of industry experience. 

Emily Lane 00:36 

Bounjour and welcome back to another episode of clothing culture. Did you notice my fancy Hello, today? 

Bret Schnitker 00:43 

I did that was really good. 

Emily Lane 00:45 

Well, that came especially for our guests who is joining us from France a fashion designer Alexandre Nicaud. Welcome Alexandre. 

Alexandre Nicaud 00:54 

Thank you, thank you for having me. 

Emily Lane 00:57 

This is the first of our series where we're going to be featuring conversations with designers that are a part of our fashion design community, United Coulture. This is a wonderful group of amazing talented designers from all around the world that get to collaborate and inspire one another with their talents. 

Bret Schnitker 01:19 

And our goal is to really give them a face to the international community for you know, during COVID. In our conversations, we found that in many cases, designers were the first to be let go. And I think that we're, you know, in a era of more transparency, I think that the new generation wants to kind of see who's behind, you know, the curtains in terms of different areas, and the rise of this boutique community that's going on. There's a place for designers to be recognized and celebrated. And I and I, and I believe that United Coulture is a good place for that. 

Emily Lane 01:58 

Absolutely. And I'm really excited that Alexandre you're a part of this community, you have such a wonderful history from, you know, the companies that you've worked for, and of course, in your own really wonderful boutique brand. So all of which we'll explore a little bit more today. But what I'd like to start diving into first is just kind of learning a little bit about your history, like what inspired you to become a fashion designer? 

Alexandre Nicaud 02:26 

I think many many things. I was thinking about that today, because I don't think about that so much. When I was young, my mom was a hostess on the Concorde. You know, the, the plane, the famous plane, 

Emily Lane 02:42 


Alexandre Nicaud 02:42 

Sonic. So she met a lot of celebrities and models and everything. And she told me a lot of stories about that. And I think that I was fascinated when I was young by that. There is a point and I'm sure this went when the Soccer World Cup in 98. And they open the big big stadium. And if so, no homemade, really nice fashion show in there. And it was I was 10 years old. Yeah. And it was always in my mind. During my, my scholarship and everything. I did a lot of things after I was more into scientific content, so I made microbiology. That was not fashion at all, but I needed to create. So at 25 years old, I got back to school in graphic design, but graphic design was always just a piece of paper. To me. The idea was leaving. So I really wanted to, to add the design in, in in one hand, and something moving and really close to the to the body. So you wear the design, you make it living, and that's why I want to I wanted to, to go into fashion school. And that's the beginning. 

Bret Schnitker 04:09 

And you went to ESMOD. I think it's the world's first fashion school. It started in the early 1800s. 

Alexandre Nicaud 04:17 

And yeah, this is the oldest, biggest because there's a lot of ESMOD in two countries. 

Bret Schnitker 04:24 

Yeah. So it's as far away I think as Jakarta. I mean, many years ago it opened to Jakarta, Indonesia, even so yes, yes. 

Alexandre Nicaud 04:31 

Yes. There is a lot of big, big, big designer from there. NAMES. So a lot of people went to this famous school. Yes. 

Bret Schnitker 04:45 

Tell us about your experience at ESMOD just a little bit about that history. 

Alexandre Nicaud 04:49 

I did it in two years because I was a bit older than the other so I don't need to make the three years I did two years in one year. So that was really, really strong. But I made it and this was for fashion design. And then for the final final year, I decided to make accessories. Because I'm a huge fan of leather of leather clothes, of leather good shoes and everything. Also jewelry. We did it. So that was a great, great year. 

Bret Schnitker 05:24 

And it gives you a pretty wide expanse when you're starting a collection to understand all the different components. technical, you know a wide range. 

Alexandre Nicaud 05:32 

Yes, that, I had all the weapon to to open a brand not to go for working to other brands. I was not in specialist in something, but I was trying to make everything to know how it works. And few years after, after a few years before making my brand, I continue to experiment. A lot of things that was really important for me, because I think that two years of school is not enough. You need three years to discover your own style, your own capabilities. You can make it in in, in, in another brand. But when you do it for yourself, it's totally different. You need it. 

Bret Schnitker 06:18 

Sure, I mean, you know, we talk in other episodes about designers, this name this term designers and it's sometimes separated a bit from artists and I really think they're the same. I mean, you know, artists 

Alexandre Nicaud 06:30 

Its the same! 

Bret Schnitker 06:31 

have to go through this evolution of thought process, you know, designers are constantly evolving. You know, their skill, their view of the world. 

Emily Lane 06:41 

Inspiration sources evolving. 

Bret Schnitker 06:43 


Alexandre Nicaud 06:44 

I think that when you are a designer, you need art to make design, you need a lot of things. Art is the thing. Music is the thing. Science is the thing, designer is, all of this in one multitude, man. Yeah. 

Emily Lane 07:00 

What is the key source of your inspiration now? 

Alexandre Nicaud 07:04 

My key source I think it's I'm not making stories now. I when I started by Haute Couture, I met stories. This is this was a point, now I'm just telling life, I have not special inspiration. It's all about life, what I see in the information, my friends, my family, my feelings. If I feel good, if I'm sick, it can be a part of the of the process of designing. Yes. 

Bret Schnitker 07:37 

Sure, it seems like in the first launch of your, of one of the first collections that you kind of have been working through, you know, you're talking about your roots and technology and science. And there is some of that DNA in that first collection. And then you've recently dialogued a little bit about this, this evolution of thought and moving to the French Riviera and changing sort of the collection, which is you know, a natural evolution to any artist, right? 

Alexandre Nicaud 08:03 

Yes, of course, because 10 years ago, I was not the same person that I am today. So my designs are like me. They're changing all the time. 

Emily Lane 08:13 

I'm curious you know, early in your career, I understand that you worked for some very prestigious design houses Chanel Sabine being among them. You know, for a lot of a lot of designers out there are people in the industry that that would be considered great success to go and work for these very iconic brands. What led you to make that transition after reaching that height of success to then say, you know, what, I need to be my own brand to launch your KSRT design studios? 

Alexandre Nicaud 08:47 

It's complicated. 

Bret Schnitker 08:49 


Alexandre Nicaud 08:49 

When I was when I was working for Chanel and then Chloe that was not for fashion design. That was for making historical course for the commercial people because they need to understand what is the product they're selling. So that was really interesting. I did this for making a bit of money was it's a really nice brand. This is not designed so I this is something that I can make also now and I was still young. So I said to me, it's now or never if you don't try to have your brand now. You will stay at Chanel, you will stay at Chloe? You will have nice salary, and then you can't go back 

Bret Schnitker 09:41 

And you chose Haute Couture and you know, there's all these different decisions in the apparel industry to go down. You know, and that business to me as I look at it today, and we and we look at that contrast it with a lot of Gen Z that's going on and certainly That's geographic. You know, we're seeing this evolution of Gen Z in the US that's talking well about sustainability and radical transparency, and, you know, all these different elements. Do you feel that, you know, Haute Couture is is embracing those changes? Or, you know, how are they seeing the evolution of their brands? And how are you seeing it? You know, is it happening in France the same as it's happening, let's say in the US? 

Alexandre Nicaud 10:28 

Concerning the Gen Z, it's, it's a bit complicated, because they are still teenagers. Yeah, they are not adult now. They are. There was they were born in the social media world, which is a pretty complicated one. Sure, when you grew up in, in this world, I think that you always need the approval of people, you need to have your community you need to have your, your own tribe, you need to have your king you need to have your queen, which are the influencers, which are which are made by the brand. So it's complicated for them to find their own place. And the brands, in Haute Couture, this is different, because in Haute Couture, this is always a part. Haute Couture, they're telling stories are telling stories about the craftsmanship. And this is not a question about if we are if we are in 2021, in 2030, right? This is for Museum, this is for dream, this is for other artists, not 

Bret Schnitker 11:37 

for artists, they're they're expressing the vision of that brand outward for the world. The question is, is is the world embracing Haute Couture? Like? 

Alexandre Nicaud 11:53 

Like not like before? No before because before we were, we were talking about style, style was everywhere. This is your style, this is not fashion, fashion is for the trash, I think you wear it. And when you're 30, you don't want it, even if it's good. I don't like fashion in this way. Haute Couture, its style is stylish forever. When you see people from the 17th century, you know, you can recognize the century just by seeing the clothes, this is the style and Gen Z are more into fashion they need to consume all the time. They want their 15 minutes of celebrity every 10 minutes. They go too fast. It goes too fast. Really, 

Bret Schnitker 12:20 

Yeah Right. And there's a you know, there's a big conversation going on, as the economy shift, you know, China's going to be the world's largest consumer economy by some say, as early as 2025. When you talk about a large economy of 1.5 billion people, a nice percentage of those can be the sizes of most countries, you know, the the served available market, this middle class that can afford fashion. The question is, is, you know, what, you know, what can designers do to embrace this kind of changing landscape that's going on? You know, how do we embrace all the questions and the change and nationality? You know, going from, let's say, the west to the east, you know, there, there are certainly different dynamics at play. 

Alexandre Nicaud 13:26 

I think the main point a designer, now they're making things for selling, now they need to go back again, and listen, what people need. I think this is the this is the way for having good brand for making clients happy. find new markets, because you need to, to go out of your town, and and know what's in this, What's the need in this country, this country, what the like, you need to be aware of everything you need to be aware, and not just I am the designer, you buy my clothes, because it's me. No, you need to buy my product, right and his product. 

Bret Schnitker 14:11 

I think somebody brands that have been around for years have started to collapse because they didn't embrace this kind of shift to consumer driven economy. And you know, when you look at these really exclusive and well curated designer brands today, you know, the the expression of that as an art form is kind of outward. And the economy is kind of like, like you mentioned, like digesting the world around you and creating something based upon what the consumer is saying is important to them. And I can see those things being somewhat conflicting. You know, when you're an artist, you paint on a canvas, something that you're feeling inwardly and you're expressing it. And, you know, at some point, hopefully before your dead, you know, you get a following and you get you know, an artist gets a following. And there's people that appreciate that style for his style, sake, you know, he, he, he engages their imagination or, you know, their passions in some way. And since designers in the apparel world to me are just artists, it's interesting to see that dynamic shifts are what's occurring and the ultimate outcome of that kind of wrestling match between a consumer driven economy and art as an expression in fashion. 

Emily Lane 15:30 

Well, I definitely see there's more room for individualism right now with expressing your fashion or you're expressing yourself through 

Bret Schnitker 15:40 


Emily Lane 15:40 

your fashion. You know, certainly a dynamic that we've been dealing with for over a year now is is COVID. You know, in the US, COVID has exasperated casualization, which is a has been a growing trend for many, many years. And I believe that is probably expands far beyond the United States. Have you, Have you seen the same within Europe? And how is this informing future decisions that you're making from a design aesthetic with your own brand? 

Alexandre Nicaud 16:12 

I think, yeah, it started in Europe a lot. When it started, I was in Italy. I was in St. Louis, just before I came back from St. Louis, and then go to Milan, so I didn't watch the news. I was not into COVID, etc. But when I went to this Milan airport, there, were taking the temperature on your head. And I was like, oh, something is happening. It's gonna be quite a bit crazy. So I went to Milan for my showroom. And the boss said to me, "Listen, Alex, there is a problem, all the potential clients are not going to Milan because of the COVID." So at this point, it was exactly last year, I knew that it will be complicated for for all the designers for all my friends. What should I do? I just step back for a step back for a while. And said, "I will not produce my collections during all the COVID, because if I do this, I will lose a lot of money." And I think that was the best thing to do. At this point. And now, I think COVID Okay, it's a disaster. But to me, that was quite a benediction. Because I don't want to do showroom anymore. I don't want to make a collection every six months. I don't want to spend money in stock and everything I don't want to sell in retail store for the moment, I want to do direct to consumer, I want to listen to them more, I want to create design and ask them, should I produce it or not? I need to be close to the client client and at this point COVID was the best thing because it makes us like more close together. 

Bret Schnitker 18:16 

Yeah, community has become a big conversation today. Even within the apparel industry. We've we've had more conversations with more people in this business around the world than I think I've ever experienced before. I think that people really want connection. And I think as you as a designer, embracing that community in the way that you're going down the road, is really important. And there are manufacturing sites that are starting to develop that we just had a conversation with a group out in Hong Kong, where this on demand manufacturing is becoming more real to connect designers to manufacturing elements where you want one piece, you want three pieces, utilizing 3D design technology to implement speed into that production line. So costs don't vary tremendously between one piece and 1000 pieces. It's a really dynamic thing where all these elements are kind of lining up, where what you've just explained can actually become a reality. 

Emily Lane 19:16 


Alexandre Nicaud 19:17 

And we also you know, in French, we say don't put your eggs in the same basket, 

Bret Schnitker 19:26 

We say that in American too, not with an accent, but, yeah 

Alexandre Nicaud 19:32 

The following is, for example, my factory closed. So my business closed. So we realized that we are a community we were in we were we need each other to to work together. So that's important to have few factories to be to be ready to produce. If one is closing, unfortunately, you still continue with the other one. So you need to have the plan. The A to the plan z to survive. 

Bret Schnitker 20:02 


Alexandre Nicaud 20:03 

Really important. 

Bret Schnitker 20:04 

So we talked about the zoom era. 

Emily Lane 20:06 

Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely. You know, I'm thinking about Here we are in this age of, you know, digital is on the rise, you know, through COVID, we've all embraced the, the opportunity to stay connect with connected with others, and continue that community building through technology through zoom, and other sources. And I'm, I'm curious to learn from you your thoughts on how his zoom life informing future design decisions for you, once you, you know, get back to making garments for your community? 

Alexandre Nicaud 20:42 

I was always looking you were talking about the zoom the video? 

Bret Schnitker 20:47 

Yeah, the video could actually not us slam Microsoft Teams or the others, you know, but yeah, yeah, that connection tool that's become an everyday part of our life. 

Alexandre Nicaud 20:58 

Yeah. And I think that's, that's one of the best thing because me I can't afford to go to my factories every month, you know, this is in Italy, there is there is also in Spain. So we used to work with zoom. I sent all my files to them before so they can see it. And then we talk together like we do it now. You're in St. Louis, I'm in Paris, it's really easy to talk. I think it's gonna be normal for everybody. For example, my mom is doing it also. Now. 

Bret Schnitker 21:31 

It's amazing. All ages are starting to embrace. 

Emily Lane 21:33 


Alexandre Nicaud 21:34 

We were really far right. I was really far away from my mom and my dad. They were really far away from my brother, because we are all in the end of France everywhere. But we can make, like meetings like that. And it's, it's cool. It's for it's worked for the family it works for for working. I think it's really nice. 

Bret Schnitker 21:54 

From a collection standpoint, no one's gonna wear pants anymore. That's the problem, right? You can only do tops now. 

Emily Lane 22:02 

Well, yeah, that's what I was actually gonna inquire. You know, what are your are your collections going to be more focused on tops as opposed to bottoms, now? 

Alexandre Nicaud 22:11 

I don't know, I think that my best thing for me for designing is dresses, I like it. I am not so much into tops and, and, and and everything. I'm really on dresses. 

Emily Lane 22:24 

That might be a challenge for you, Brett, 

Bret Schnitker 22:25 

It could be for sure. 

Alexandre Nicaud 22:29 

You can think about it. Yeah, why not? Right. 

Bret Schnitker 22:34 

So when we think about all this digitization of what's going on, and all the avenues, you know, direct to consumer, the zoom live online sales, etc. You know, we've had a few conversations about this. The the move to 3D as a designer, you know, so much of the design world has kind of not evolved rapidly in terms of technology. How do you feel about 3D as a design tool? Is that something you're interested in? Do you think that that that's going to continue to become more commonplace? 

Alexandre Nicaud 23:11 

Yeah, I am. As you see, I have the that said, VR, VR is quite new, but not new. But it's working. Since now, only two years. For people it was too complicated for having a VR setting because you needed to have a PC, that is $1,000, you needed to have the VR headsets, it was also a few $1,000. And now for $4,400. You have your headset. And you can even you can have your your 3D. So I think that in the future future. People will use that with avatars for sure. For trying new clothes, for example, they don't need to go to the physical store to try and outfit. So I think that we're gonna wait maybe 10 years, but it's going to be more and more normal. I think that you will use VR for example, in shopper attainment there will probably be for sure. Even like events with VR, in pop up store, for example, and gonna develop a lot, a lot and then we're going to be normal for the for the market. 

Bret Schnitker 24:39 

The I think it's really exciting what's going on on that front. 

Emily Lane 24:42 

Absolutely. So what do you see in addition to being closer with your community and more direct to consumer, what other sites do you have on the future with with with your career as a designer 

Alexandre Nicaud 24:59 

I don't know exactly for it for the moment. It's complicated period. So I need to, I really need to improve on 3D for example, to to find new perspective, I need to think a lot of the storytelling of my brand, this is really important. I need to connect with people. I need to go more on social media because the Gen Z, as I said, it's really important. Each generation of social media for my parents, this is more Facebook, my brother also is 10 years older than me older than me. For me, it's Instagram. Of course, I am 36 years old. For my nephew, nephew, niece, nieces. This is Tiktok, Snapchat, of course. And I think, for me, I need to be on all of those because I need to try to touch all the generation because I'm making clothes, not for people of my age, my mom can can wear it, for example, my niece can wear it. She's She's really young. So I need to connect with people on on social media. And even if I don't like that so much, but it's a good window on my on my work. 

Bret Schnitker 26:23 

You know, you've been so celebrated, you've won so many awards. I mean, the list is endless. You're, You're an amazing talent in this industry. 

Alexandre Nicaud 26:31 

Thank you so much. 

Bret Schnitker 26:31 

You know, I think COVID has thrown a ringer into everybody's sort of business. And, and, you know, I've said in another podcast, I think adversity breeds creativity, certainly, but it also breeds evolve technology, ways to be able to interact with customers in new in in new, new ways. And so we're really excited to see what the next steps are for Alexander Nicaud. You know, we think that, you know, we're thankful that you're a part of United Coulture where we want 

Alexandre Nicaud 26:31 

I am really happy too! 

Bret Schnitker 26:34 

every day, we want to celebrate your continued evolution in the space. We want to make sure that people know who you are. And I think that that, you know, protecting this aesthetic and approaching it in in a new way is really exciting. 

Emily Lane 27:24 

Absolutely. And, Alexandre, we will make sure to share your website and all of those socials you're getting out there on and certainly if you are a fashion designer out there that is looking to connect with others be a part of this community share resources collaborate, find us at United Coulture. You can also follow us on our socials at @clothingcoulture and @starsdesigngroup. Subscribe to stay apprised of upcoming episodes of Clothing Coulture. Thank you for joining us. Merci. 

Alexandre Nicaud 27:58 

Thank you so much! 

Emily Lane 27:58 

Merci beaucoup. 

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The Realities of a Fashion Designer with Alexandre Nicaud