Nicolas Fafiotte: 20 years of passion for Couture
"I hope I'll manage to get it all done", confesses Nicolas Fafiotte. But he accepts our phone interview request straight away with a disarmingly kind, simple manner, despite the intense level of activity buzzing in his atelier on Rue du Plat in Lyon's Presqu'île area. And intense is not an exaggeration. The interview is sometimes interrupted by requests coming from all sides at the Oyonnax-born, 46-year-old designer.
For his eponymous brand, founded in Lyon in 2002, he has to manage a myriad of orders with his team of five couturiers - wedding dresses and evening gowns for his loyal clientele. And a few weeks ago, he became the chairman of the Village des Créateurs, a prominent Lyon-based organisation that brings together fashion brands from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. Nicolas took over the reins from the late Max Chaoul, who he knew well. "I started my career with him, after graduating from Esmod," he reminisces with a touch of emotion.
Everything has been sped up these past few months, a surge provoked by Nicolas' involvement in a primetime TV show. And not just any TV show - the Miss France pageant. The 2021 edition, which broadcast in mid-December, was a massive hit - nearly 9 million people tuned in to enjoy the spectacle, a limitless source of dreams and glitter that was extremely welcome in such difficult times. The show recorded its best results in a decade.
This nation-wide craze proved highly advantageous for Nicolas, who made the evening dresses for the 29 contestants (custom-made gowns that the candidates were able to take home), with his name mentioned many times throughout the entire evening. We should add that the couturier has been working with the Miss France committee for a long time - he most notably made the fur coat worn by then-law student/Miss Lyon Sylvie Tellier for the national competition in 2001, which she won. She was extremely grateful to him: "it's always impossible to reach the new Miss France in the first weeks. And then, one day, I saw her pull up underneath my windows in her car, waving her Miss France crown, and she said to me, 'it's all thanks to you!'".
But this year, the collaboration took a different form, as Nicolas was propelled into the position of the pageant's official partner, taking over from Pronuptia. And clearly, the committee has no reason to regret this choice. A few hours before the show, panel chair Iris Mittenaere shared the spectacular, sparkling bustier-dress covered in crystals, created especially for her by Nicolas, with her 2.6 million Instagram followers. "That piece took hundreds of hours of work to make. It really shows off our savoir-faire." The comment section exploded with praise. “The new producers of the show at Endemol wanted something more modern, more sexy, for when the contestants were introduced on stage", Nicolas modestly explains to describe his work, which admirers of the former Miss Universe raved about.
The consequences of this screentime slam dunk, lauded by the national press, were felt straight away. The couturier's online store was immediately slammed with visits, and his followers on social media skyrocketed. The orders started pouring in. Of course, Nicolas and his team were very touched by all the heart-warming messages, especially since the maison's activity had been so impacted by the pandemic, with parties and weddings cancelled by the dozen. But the creator is keeping his cool. He knows that the life of a freelance designer is full of ups and downs. The only thing that counts for the former Esmod student (graduated, it must be mentioned, with first prize in the "Haute Couture" category) is the quality of his relationships with his clients and suppliers. Human relationships. "Clients love it when I show them around my atelier. They are curious about our craft and savoir-faire, they like to see all the hours we spend embroidering and making their dresses. And I also have a very close relationship with my suppliers. It's true that in a regional context, and especially in Rhône-Alpes which is the birthplace of silk and finishing, networking is very important. And that's without even mentioning how dynamic the city is, with the Village des Créateurs."
His humanist values are also expressed through his passion for beautiful craftsmanship. The lace comes from Caudry-Calais, the silk scarves are of course made from fabulous Lyon silk, and the jewellery is made in partnership with Mexican producers, who are compensated according to fair trade standards. The couturier hopes to strengthen this love for fine craft with the Village des Créateurs, which, let's not forget, created the Talents de Mode competition: “For me, it's important to work with the region's new generation of creators, who will determine which direction is taken in the future, in order to raise awareness and improve the impact of fashion, decor and design on both society and the environment. The Village des Créateurs is not just for emerging brands; it should be the foundation for established regional fashion brands to create a true ecosystem built on exchanges and mutual help." For Nicolas Fafiotte, creation is not about profit, but rather a means of sharing.