Élise, can you introduce yourself?
My name’s Élise Chalmin and I’ve just turned 30. I’m the founder of the Élise Chalmin brand, which I launched in 2017. I’m an illustrator and I draw prints that I then use on my clothes, which are made from natural materials. I’m also mum to Léonard and my partner’s called Rodrigue.
In a philosophical context, what’s your idea of “beauty”?
I think beauty is subjective. There are things or objects that I love which others find awful! I’m a sensible consumer – when I buy something, the idea is to keep it for a long time. My flat is heaving with accessories, books and paintings. I have same attitude when it comes to my brand. We have a “Buy less, Buy better” approach and we ask our clients to follow suit, so we sell items that can be passed on to others. Like a piece of designer furniture, I believe a garment should be passed down the generations and that’s why we design timeless pieces rather than passing fashions.
Tell us about how your upbringing influenced your product designs.
My paternal great-grandparents, Luc and Marjolaine Lanel, were designers and ceramists. They worked for Christofle for many years and designed the Le Normandie ocean liner’s silverware, which is now on show at the Musée de la Marine in Paris. My maternal grandfather was a graphic artist, painter and illustrator, but I never got the chance to know him. My much-loved paternal grandfather spent 35 years as technical director for Maison André, a company that specialises in the restoration of works of art. He then became an antiques’ dealer in partnership with my uncle, Jean-Luc Chalmin. As for my father, he was an art dealer for a long time before becoming a sculptor. I guess you could say that I come from a highly artistic background!
You followed an eclectic career path which eventually led you to create your brand in 2017. What did this entail?
I did a Baccalaureate in Economics and Social Science. I then enrolled for an arts’ foundation course at L’Atelier de Sèvres, opposite the Bon Marché department store, and, not being the most diligent of students, I ended up spending 2 years there. In my second year I passed the entry exams for the London College of Communication, which is part of the University of The Arts London. I enjoyed three fantastic years there and graduated with a degree in Illustration and Visual Media, surrounded by an army of friends. It was a very open-minded course, with an upstream research approach to pure creation. This meant our projects involved 90% research and 10% creating. It allowed me to discover numerous artists and push my thinking as far as possible. It was then that I started to create prints.After my three years in London, I returned to Paris where I did an internship at Armand Ventilo, an amazing brand that sadly no longer exists. I then joined Maison Standard, but I needed more freedom and colour so I took the plunge and started my Élise Chalmin adventure.
What makes Élise Chalmin clothes different?
Élise Chalmin clothes are made from over 95% natural materials. This is uncommon when it comes to ready-to-wear clothes, and makes creating them tricky, as nowadays it’s far easier to source synthetic rather than natural materials. Our jumpers are made from 100% wool, and our shirts from 100% silk or cotton. Our pieces are also printed using my designs, meaning we have patterns that you won’t find in any other brand!
What message do you want your clothes to convey?
I want my designs to convey positivity and optimism. In our boutique we’ve hung up a quote by Xavier Dolan, which roughly translates into English as “Anything’s possible if you dream, dare, work and never give up.” For me, that’s as true as it gets. I’m an extremely optimistic person and it’s this positive attitude that I try to pass on to others. I think in life it’s important to be daring and adventurous, to take risks because if you don’t try, you’ll never make your dreams come true. This is why I use lots of colour when designing my clothes.
You work a lot with colour. Why is it so important to you?
For me, colour channels happiness. That’s how colours make me feel. Seeing an assortment of pigments cheers me up. That’s no doubt why I love my friend Camille Cottier’s paintings so much. I also need colour in my work. I see black and grey all around me. Having strong colours in one’s wardrobe is important! For me, they’re like the sun: essential for life.
Your patterns are inseparable from your style. How do you think them up?
I don’t really have a set answer to that question. They come from wherever my fancy takes me and how I’m feeling. I spend hours on Pinterest looking at colour combinations that I like. I also browse through art books. For example, the Sonia sweatshirt is directly inspired by a Sonia Delauney painting.
During which historical period would you have loved to live?
I would have loved to life during 1925 when Art Deco arrived, as well as the 80s when cool New York bands were at their heyday and you could hang out with the likes of Warhol, Basquiat and The Velvet Underground at CBGB.
What does your inner self tell you?
It tells me that I’m pretty chaotic and that I like things (laughs)! I keep things for a long time , so I have a lot, if not too much, stuff. My inner self also knows that I love colour and photography. I’ve moved a lot and I take my furniture wherever I go – it’s lived in different places and shows the passage of time.
How do you furnish your home?
I was given a number of my maternal grandmother’s pieces of furniture, notably two Pierre Chapo banquettes that I love and which came from her sitting room. I also kept the “squirrel” fabric that was in her home. I really like it and am happy that it she passed it down to me.My Pipistrello lamp was a birthday present she gave me a few days before she passed away. It’s not a design that has particularly grown on me, but it does hold a special meaning for me. I tell myself that this little lamp is my grandmother watching over me. As for the rest, I don’t have much second-hand furniture apart from a vintage Roche Bobois coffee table from the 70s that I adore, although I don’t know who designed it. I looked for one for months on end and eventually found this on Selency. I also like craft pieces. I love the woven lamps by Julie Lansom and we treated ourselves to one only a few weeks ago. So, you’ll find our home is a pretty mix of new, craft and vintage pieces. A bit like my wardrobe!
What do you like to be surrounded by?
Light most of all! Before moving here, I lived near rue Lepic for a year. I love the area, but I lived on the first floor overlooking a courtyard. I couldn’t see the sky and I dreamed of moving out as quickly as possible. So, I love light, the sun shining into my flat and music on a Saturday morning! And colour, of course. Always. It’s really important if I’m to be in a good mood. And soft lighting as well, at the end of the day.
What does the The Socialite Family mean to you?
It’s inspirational! I love looking through the portraits on the site and I’m a big fan of The Socialite Family brand. I think we’ve got the same taste when it comes to burgundies, ochres, navy blues and fir greens. Plus there’s the story of the inspiring founder who also dared step into the unknown.
How do you plan to spend the festive season?
We’ll spend part of the holidays at my mother’s in the Jura and then we’ll head to Méribel in the Alps to spend Christmas with my partner’s family including Léonard’s cousins! It’s going to fab.
Where we will find you in 2021?
I hope we’ll find each other in a world without masks, but with music and nightclubs and bars open until whatever hour, and also be able to kiss each other on the cheek again! In 2021, we’ll also be enjoying some fantastic new partnerships, with a bit more of a lifestyle slant on our site and in-store, and numerous projects that I can’t talk about too much right now. I can’t wait for next year to begin. I see a bright future that’s going to be full of surprises!
Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily