DAMDAM

Conversations with

Patrick Stephan

BY GISELLE GO AND PHILIPPE TERRIEN

Photographed by Sandro Oliveira

You will always see a touch of Brittany in Patrick Stephan.

The Paris-based designer was born in Ile d’Ouessant, off the coast of Brittany – a place known for its rugged terrain, grey-tinged seas, and heavy rains and winds that only a sturdy Breton mariniere can withstand. Despite cutting his teeth at the extravagant John Galliano and a stint living in sunny Mexico, it is the solemn environment of Brittany that still echoes in Patrick’s own minimalist aesthetic. Any one piece from his accessories or clothing collection is surely made in somber tones of dove grey and black so that the focus remains on the silhouette and in the hidden, secret details that are present only for its wearer. It is this fascination for strictness and craftsmanship that drew Patrick to Japan – first, as a resident of Tokyo, and subsequently maintaining an accessories atelier after moving back to Paris last year.

In recent years, an airy elegance has also managed to seep through Patrick’s work – in the furtive nuances of his fashion work, and even more apparent in the pages of his personal journals. What would be typically diary scribblings are elevated to an art in Patrick’s hands, where collages, calligraphy, and painstakingly dried wildflowers co-habit. It is this sensitivity that drew us to Patrick, working on a series of handmade collages together for DAMDAM. We catch up with the multi-disciplinary designer on his last visit to Tokyo.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

First of all, I’m a designer. I create clothing, accessories, and personal wardrobes for clients. I also started to write more recently and have opened myself to new territories. I’ve become a storyteller because of the journaling I do intensively.

I was born in the island Ouessant and it was quite austere. You know, monastic and Catholic. The daily life was very grey, white, black – quite pure in a way. I remember seeing flowers from my grandmother’s scarf – a little open door to all what could be: Fantasy, color, dream, femininity. Opening the wardrobe of my grandparents, touching the delicate fabrics, the lining of my father’s jacket. I get my source of inspiration from where I come from. The smell of the naphthalene, the lavender in the pillow. It was a lot about scents, memory, olfactory.

Journaling can be a great ritual. How did you start?

It came naturally maybe seven, eight years ago. It’s therapeutic to lie down and have that kind of dialogue with yourself. When I start a new Moleskine, the first page always contains the date and the exact situation I’m in – not just the environment but the “life moment,” where I am at that point.

Patrick on location in Zushi shooting elements for his collage. / The final artwork for DAMDAM includes dried flowers, handwritten notes, and pages from Patrick’s own diary.

“[Journalling] came naturally maybe seven, eight years ago. It’s therapeutic to lie down and have that kind of dialogue with yourself.”

What brought you to live in Japan as you did?

I remember visiting the Art Decoratif Museum in Paris in early 2000s for a retrospective of Serge Luten’s work for Shiseido, his personal artwork, and his work as art director for Christian Dior. I was quite fascinated with it. His artwork was really impressive – minimal and different from what French couture offers, which can be heavier and more decorative. There was a black lacquer box, very minimal in its aesthetic which I connected with. At that time, I discovered a bridge between the Occidental and Japan.

What is the difference between how the French and Japanese see beauty?

In France, it’s about addition. We love storytelling – sometimes over-decorated and a bit heavy that I found it interesting to go to something more pure. In Japan, it’s more about the line, more about minimalism. There is a paradox that exists between the two which was interesting. 

Patrick’s accessories collection crafted by artisans in Japan.

“In France, it’s about addition. We love storytelling – sometimes over-decorated and a bit heavy… In Japan, it’s more about the line, more about minimalism. There is a paradox that exists between the two which was interesting.”

You’ve lived in many places – Tokyo, Mexico, and now back to Paris. What’s your favorite travel destination?

I had an amazing time in LA. For my next vacation, I would love to go to Morocco. Brazil next Christmas. Love, love, love! 

What is typically your first and last thought in a day?

In the morning, I wake up with more of a feeling of openness. At night, often it’s ‘thank you,’ if it was a good day. More and more, it’s ‘thank you.’ 

Do you have a morning ritual?

Light a candle. I light incense as well. That’s something I do almost religiously. It’s something I love to do. It gives comfort. It gives a starting point to the day which is important.

This or that

Fashion Week or country weekend? Country weekend, of course. I prefer the real cow!!

Shower or bath? I would love to say bath because there’s a sense of romance of taking time but honestly a shower is probably more what I do!

Coffee or tea? Coffee. Night or day? Night.

Staying in or going out? Staying in. Juice or booze? Juice.

Running or yoga? Running. Friend or lover? Friend. You can’t be a good lover otherwise!

Looks from a previous RTW collection by Patrick Stephan.

“DAMDAM is intimate. It’s human. It’s not pretentious. It’s joy, it’s nature, it’s emotional – it’s all that I love. When you told me about your tomato plant, for example, that you grew in your balcony, I’m the kind of guy that loves that kind of story because it’s human.”

What do you look for in self-care products?

I use basic stuff. I love natural products. I love hand soap for the gesture, for the object, for the plate I display it with. After that, I use a day cream. I don’t use a night cream, honestly. Strangely, I feel like I don’t need much. The more I grow, the less I need to be surrounded with a lot of stuff. I don’t wear scents anymore. I used to wear Serge Lutens but since three years now, I stopped wearing fragrance. I’m more sensitive to how I wash my clothing, the smell of my pillow, my sheets. I love the smell of lavender on Egyptian cotton. 

We’re thrilled to collaborate together. What drew you to this project with us?

It was following my instinct. DAMDAM is intimate. It’s human. It’s not pretentious. It’s joy, it’s nature, it’s emotional – it’s all that I love. When you told me about your tomato plant, for example, that you grew in your balcony, I’m the kind of guy that loves that kind of story because it’s human.

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