Théo Galbert : Rap Couture
Armed with rock-solid determination, Théo Galbert is preparing his second collection of flashy menswear, soundtracked by rowdy rap beats.
He knows what he wants, having dreamed up and designed garments since he was a boy. "At first, I just didn't want to be dressed like everyone else," he admits. But faced with a lack of interesting menswear pieces in terms of cuts, materials and colours, he started to imagine garments of his own, then design them. What he didn't understand was why men could only wear dark colours and simple or casual materials. "Fortunately, we are living in a time where pre-established norms are being shaken up," he continues. "Mindsets are evolving."
When he encountered difficulties blocking his initial project, his own fashion house for menswear, he decided to enrol in a specialised course at the age of 21. However, he never lost sight of his objective, continuing to create his own garments on the side. The first school he chose was highly technical, focused on stitching, and he realised that the creative process was not really covered. But this didn't stop him from continuing to research fabrics and source materials as well as manufacturers for his first pieces in his free time, all while attending classes. "I also realised that the creation aspect of fashion design was a lot less prioritised at the school in question." He began to feel increasingly frustrated, and it quickly became clear that Esmod would be a better choice.
Planet Esmod: Why did you wait to enrol in specialised fashion studies?
Théo Galbert: At first, I hesitated, because studying represented a big investment. Shouldn't I be investing in my own brand first? But my desire to make high-end, cutting-edge garments helped me make the right choice I feel. When you haven't been into a couture atelier and you haven't gotten your hands dirty in these highly specialised crafts, you don't know what the work entails, you don't know what goes on there!
P. E.: And did "what was going on there" correspond to your dreams?
T. G.: Yes! It showed me that the possibilities are infinite. At first, I was limited, as I didn't have any connections to find good addresses, specialised ateliers, places to source good fabric, etc. Now, thanks to the pieces I produce - even though they're still small runs - I have access to a larger range of supplies. So I’m less limited in my creativity. The exciting thing for me is always going further to try and make my pieces more technical, mixing materials, techniques, savoir-faire, etc.
P. E.: Would you say that your fashion studies opened up new horizons for you?
T. G.: For sure. At first, I didn't even see it as a profession or business, just a passion. Only now do I know that I can make a living in the profession, but also keep dreaming and creating. These days, I’m constantly evolving, making new connections, finding new suppliers and new ateliers to work with. For example, I love embellishing materials, with embroidery for instance.
P. E.: Speaking of which, where did your passion for embroidery come from?
T. G.: It actually came from Esmod, when I won an embroidery internship contest in 2019. I was selected by Hubert Barrère, the Artistic Director at Maison Lesage. Unfortunately, lockdown put a premature end to my internship. But, I did my second internship (through Esmod once again) at Baqué Molinié, an embroidery atelier that was recently founded by two entrepreneurs who use freelance embroiderers and work for Italian and French fashion brands. I learnt a lot, as I worked on pieces for huge fashion houses like Versace, Schiaparelli, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton. It was a dream come true for me, as I've always been fascinated by embroidery. They were quite touched by my request to work with them on their craft, as very few creators nowadays actually recognise the value, complexity and originality of embroidery.
P. E.: So where did you work for your first internship?
T. G.: At Atelier Sara Couture, which does prototyping for collections for big brands. They're specialised in research and development, but they also work on garment production for prestigious brands like Balmain, Dior, Chanel, Balenciaga, Loewe, Alexandre Vauthier, and so on. I'm actually working there again now, part-time. It's given me a whole other take on fashion. I work in management, production tracking, collection management, receiving materials, client and supplier relations, etc. It's a fantastic opportunity for me, as it gives me access to the behind-the-scenes goings on of these huge fashion houses. Beyond these companies, there are hubs dedicated to each stage of the collection. Having to manage everything at once here gives me a more comprehensive view of designing a brand. And as I’m still developing my own creations and collections at the same time, this collaboration also means I can even sometimes get advice on certain things.
Fashion is not just printing designs on t-shirts - it's more than that. You have to put your heart and soul into it, you have to live for it!
P. E.: What do you think was the best part of the Esmod method?
T. G.: I really liked the school's vibe. I felt at ease straight away. The teaching team is always available for any questions you might have. That was particularly useful for me during the competitions that I participated in outside of school. The teaching is also top level in that the majority of the teachers also still work in fashion. So they have a practical perspective. I felt the curriculum was well-structured as well, with a variety of side modules, like history of fashion and management, among others.
P. E.: What projects are you working on now?
T. G.: I've just finished my first real collection, "Las Vegas". It's both my end-of-study collection and a collection for my brand. It has a very "show off", opulent vibe. I've had some great feedback, but lockdown meant that I wasn’t able to sell many pieces. Since the style of the collection is based on garments for parties or special events, obviously when there's a curfew or lockdown, that doesn't really work. But I'm not too discouraged, because I know that when things pick up again, people will need new things to go out partying, to sparkle. I plan to pursue this angle for my next collection. And I hope to ramp up the party aspect, thanks to the savoir-faire I acquired at my internship in the embroidery atelier. With more finesse, more research and more technical aspects. I’m currently in the development phase for this next collection.
P. E.: Do you feel confident about the future, even with the difficulties we are facing in this exceptionally tough time?
T. G.: Yes. Firstly because I was lucky enough to be selected by the Lille-Roubaix organisation, Maisons de Mode, so the label is now supporting me through an affiliate agreement. They only usually work with people in the Hauts-de-France region, but they made an exception as they liked my work. Through them, I was able to do my first fashion show during this difficult period, in September 2020 at Le Tripostal in Lille. Normally, more than 12,000 people attend this event and the Maisons de Mode fashion show, but there were only 400 spectators. Which was pretty good given the circumstances. In any case, it was a very valuable experience for me, especially on the practical side of things, doing a real fashion show. It's incredibly helpful when you're starting out freelance. Maisons de Mode is also advising me in my brand evolution. It's good to have this external professional feedback, another perspective to help guide me.
P. E.: You dressed rap stars like Tyga in 2018, or more recently Kalash and Gifta. So you seem to be gravitating towards a very particular niche in men's fashion. Are you worried segmentation?
T. G.: With Galbert Couture Paris, I've chosen a niche market. That means I have to persevere, it can take many years before you build a client base and gain recognition. But for me, it's really my driving force - creating exceptional pieces, things that you don't see anywhere else, both in fashion and accessories. Fashion is not just printing designs on t-shirts - it's more than that. You have to put your heart and soul into it, you have to live and breathe it!
P. E.: What advice would you give nowadays to current Esmod students?
T. G.: First of all, you have to be dedicated. This course requires a lot of personal investment. You can't be scared of putting in long hours. So, you need to be passionate about the sector from the beginning. In my case, I already had an idea of what I wanted to do, which helps. It's good to be able to think ahead to the short- or medium-term after your studies. It helps you to not get too lost after graduating. It's also good to develop your own style when starting your studies, which can attract certain fashion houses and help you can find work faster. Even just having a certain profession in mind, on the pattern-making or fashion design side of things, will help you find your way once you graduate.
You also have to adapt to the pace of the industry. At first, I found it surprising that at Esmod, you work on a whole lot of projects at once. I didn't understand why. But in real life, you're always working on dozens of projects at the same time. So it makes sense.