5Q’S WITH…FRANÇOIS GIRBAUD
Name: François Girbaud
Job title: Denim Design Pioneer and Co-founder of Marithé + François Girbaud
In the field(s) of: Fashion Design
Originally from: Paris, France
How did you get started in fashion? In the beginning of the story, it was obvious to me. I’m 62 years old now, but back then I wanted to be a cowboy. In France, to be a cowboy was a great thing, we didn’t have cowboy’s. I was really passionate about this whole John Wayne look and style. Then one day we received Rock & Roll music with this guy Elvis and this was the beginning that led our generation to wear these kinds of clothes, adopt this kind of style, to move this kind of way and I was part of that. I was also part of creating this scene in France led by the Cowboy/Rock & Roll style and so we opened a western store to recreate the looks we saw in the movies. This wasn’t a typical western store like what you would see in the west, we had all these ideas and incorporated penny loafers, button down shirts, Hawaiian shirts. We re-interpreted the look you call western style. For me, it wasn’t about it being fashionable, it was part of my life. I lived the life that I was leading. I never started out wanting to be a designer, it simply evolved for me and we we’re successful because at the time American design was boring for us and so it just continued evolving. Tomorrow will be a continuity of what I do today. Girbaud is a constant work in progress. Sometimes you get the customer, sometimes you don’t. Fortunately for me the customer has followed us for so many years.
How did you evolve from buyer to designer? I wanted to create my own stuff as an evolution of buying. To create what wasn’t available. Somehow, we managed to influence style in France with a lot of people and designing became a natural progression for us.
When did you officially become Marithe + Francois Girbaud? In 1969, we we’re creating our own custom clothes and one day we had to style and sign with our name and so we came up with Girbaud. We decided to place the label on the fly. And it caught on. People didn’t wear Girbaud because it was written on a label, but because it made them feel better. I don’t know how it became so popular in America because we broke all of the rules. We didn’t create product for an uptown or downtown customer, we blurred the lines and created product for everyone. We we’re the first to break the rules.
What differentiates Girbaud from the rest of the denim brands out there? What differentiates us is that we’re constantly tying to innovate and not follow the trends.
What is your design process? For me it’s a job. I am in the studio and cutting room everyday. I get inspired by my team. This is part of my process. You have to go to the factories, you have to meet people and you have to know the process. You have to do that to be a designer. It’s the only way.
What influences Francois? I am influenced by what’s happening around me. How to think about this new generation. There are billions of people on the planet and we cannot continue to behave the way we have. It’s impossible. There is room for everybody. I have to try and do my part. It’s my duty. I feel that I am responsible somehow. I have to work to improve the possibilities for that next generation.
Where do you see fashion headed in the next five years? In 5 years, I’m not clear. In 10 or 20 years I’m much clearer. I see something big coming out of China, India or Russia.
Where do you see Gibaud in the future? I’m pessimistic about tomorrow because of what’s happening on the planet, the people are destroying everything. When we started doing denim we had no idea that it could destroy the rivers and destroy the ground. When you start something, there’s no way of knowing that you’re causing damage. But now we know better. As part of the new generation we are responsible. When we launder, we have to be aware of how it affects water, because tomorrow we may have a shortage of water. As a designer, I have a responsibility on how we affect the environment.
In 2008 wil it be Hillary or Obama? The woman.