Fashion Q&A: Designs focus on wearable nature scenes
Written by: Ella Clarens, Calgary Herald
Jean Michel Gires and Agung Nugrahaeni, who goes by Haeni (hay-knee), are taking wearable art in a new direction with their accessory and clothing brand byjeanmichel.
Imagine the most picturesque nature scene and being able to wear it. This is how Jean Michel and Haeni are altering the fashion game.
Gires was born close to Paris, France and spent his youth in Nice, excelling at sports and academics. He later moved to Paris to study engineering and began his career as a civil servant working for the French Administration before joining an international oil and gas company working as an executive for 25 years.
During this time he travelled to 104 countries and lived in seven: Canada, France, Portugal, Spain, Venezuela, the United Kingdom and the United States. He speaks several languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese.
“I wanted to discover the world,” sys Gires. He was naturally drawn to photography as a way to document his travels. His pictures look like modern art paintings, impressionism being his niche focusing on nature, landscapes and urban landscapes.
Having published two photography books of his work and hosting 20 different photography exhibits in five different countries, he “wanted to go beyond what is possible as a photographer. I knew I could share that beauty at a larger scale with other means.”
With the help of Haeni and research along with trial and error, Gires created his first wearable piece: his nature shot digitally printed on a silk scarf. Lake O’Hara and Lake Louise have been two of their bestsellers. They have even gone on to create stylish leggings made in Montréal and, more recently, kimonos.
This past summer Jean Michel and Haeni collaborated with Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre where they sold their beautiful architectural designed pocket squares and scarves in honour of the building’s Canada Day opening.
Their designs can also be found at the Glenbow Museum as well as online (www.byjeanmichel.com).
Here is more on the entrepreneurial Gires, who calls himself “a citizen of the planet.”
Q: There are many places you have travelled to. Where is most memorable that you photographed?
A: This is always a tricky question. As a passionate traveller, you keep living with your discoveries, and the best place is always the one you are just about to discover. At the same time, you never lose your line of life, and photography helps you to keep your souvenirs intact. I have been lucky enough to live in seven countries, but I might have got the best out of my home country, France, a superb Venezuela in Latin America, and more recently, my new home place in Western Canada. But I have been lucky enough to discover some of the most incredible places of this planet, like the African deserts in Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Namibia, the Amazonia jungle in South America, meet indigenous people in the Americas, Africa and Asia or be as urban as you can ever be in some the best cities in the world like Paris, Rome, London, New York, Montreal, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. Nevertheless, I think all over, my best inspiration comes from nature; I just love immersing myself in nature, and feel absolutely part of it.
Q: It’s exciting you took your creations international to Indonesia and did a fashion show. How has the response been?
A: We have been in Indonesia since the beginning of our venture, as we manufacture some of our products in Bali. But this new collaboration with Widhi Budimulia, a well known fashion designer in Jakarta, was very new for us. The principle was to bring our patterns, on various types of silk, for him to design a full collection of 36 outfits. The response during the 2017 Indonesia Trend Fashion Show has been fantastic. The show itself was very inspiring, refreshing, colourful and a great inspiration for many participants. We got a lot of Indonesian press coverage about this new approach of wearable art, mixing art and fashion for the pleasure of our customers.
Q: You have a new collection out. What new pieces have you created?
A: This year, we have created a new collection of silk scarves, both square and long ones. The inspiration came from my travels in Namibia, France, (and the) U.S.A. (Yellowstone), but as well from our beautiful landscapes in Alberta (Herbert Lake, Fred Lake) and even right here in Calgary (National Music Centre, Century Gardens, Flamingos at the Calgary Zoo and the Young Canadians at the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show). We introduced, as well, a new collection of kimonos many women will find easy to wear in their personal and even professional lives. It adds to our previous pieces a nice selection of colours and patterns, all inspired by our planet’s beauty and some extraordinary views from home, here in Alberta.