Lafont 1844 relaunches ad rebrands with Louis-Marie de Castelbajac
Wikipedia, the American version that is, might try to tell you otherwise, but the French invented overalls. The locals here call them salopette, and the brand that first created them is Lafont, which is undergoing an absorbing new relaunch under the guidance of Louis-Marie de Castelbajac.
The son of the famed designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Louis-Marie unveiled his first ideas for the historic brand this week, a novel blend of workerist classicism, techy finishes and visual insider puns.
“How to make contemporary and timeless workwear. An idea of going back to the originals and infusing them with certain details. I’m determined to make a Swiss knife of a jacket,” enthused the dashing 35-year-old Louis-Marie, who looks more like a rangy rugby star than a fashion designer.
The collection, named Lafont 1844 by Louis de Castelbajac features lots of classics with twists: tone on tone worker-wear, with reflective nylon strips for night, or tiny watch pockets at the wrist. Secret pockets in pretty well every one of the jackets.
“There are pockets everywhere, and there should be,” concluded Louis Marie.
Louis-Marie added in some engravings dating from 1844, which he found in Lyon, and used in T-Shirts and even the invitation to this week’s soft unveiling. For cool gals, he featured great, slimmer line overalls and jumpsuits. Like his famous dad, he has an acute sense of humor, as shown by his Belt Metre, a leather belt with the meter scale.
“It’s about going back to functionality, incorporating the timeless aspect of workwear,” says Louis-Marie, who has inked a deal with hipster boutique The Webster in Miami, which has ordered specific pieces that will start retailing in September. People can already pre-order classic pieces on the Lafont website and get deliveries in March.
Located in the heart of the north Marais, across the street from iconic fashion restaurant Anahi, the showroom will stay open through the Paris women’s ready-to-wear season in early March. A street corner space featuring iconic looks, like a faded blue Coltin jacket, like the one worn by Jean Gabin in La Bête Humaine; a pair of 1910 multiply-patched faded blue overalls, sorry salopette. Lafont also worked with moleskin de soie, and linen moleskin like an 1870 version on display that has the most marvellous patina.
“These clothes could be insured for 100 years,” smiles Louis-Marie, who also included old Vogue Hommes covers from the 70s, when workwear first became trendy with fashionable city slickers.
Historically, overalls were invented in 1844 by Adolphe Lafont, the owner of a textile store who realized there was a growing market for work wear in a rapidly industrializing mid-19th century France. In effect, he created the first carpenter pants. The American version of Wikipedia, ahem, claims Levi Strauss dreamed them up in the 1890s.
Now just called Lafont, the brand is still based near Lyon, at Villefranche-sur-Saône, the ancient capital of Beaujolais.
Next up, Louis-Marie wants to re-edit the Gabin look, and use more recycled materials. All the fabrics are created in France, though the apparel manufacturing is mainly done in Lafont factories in Madagascar.
Lafont is now part of Cepovett, Europe’s leading workwear maker, with annual turnover of some 150 million euros. It was acquired three years ago by the Lyonnais family of Nicolas Sandjian, a dynamic French-Armenian.
Louis-Marie first contacted Lafont four years ago with the “dream of making a French Levi’s.” At the time, the pension fund that owned the marque said no. “But when Cepovett came along, they called saying they had stumbled across my email, and that they wanted to talk. So, for the last year and a half, I’ve been busy. I want to do the rebranding and create something really solid,” he explained.
Prior to joining Lafont, Louis-Marie cut his design teeth creating the Lignée (lineage) collection for his father. A born entrepreneur, he even launched his own Armagnac brand, called 700, referring to foundation of his aristocratic family in Gascony.
Noted for its off-beat packaging – including flannel jackets for the bottles – 700 is a significant success both online and in China.
Like in the movie Amélie, Louis-Marie shoots his bottles in exotic locations beside a statue of a dwarf, creating an intrepid journey that can be seen on his Instagram account. Yes, if that sounds to you like Louis-Marie has a hard-working but charmed existence, then you are right.
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