Eric Wilson

This Week's Wow: Eavesdropping on the Designers Behind French Rocker-Chic Brand Zadig & Voltaire

This Week's Wow: Eavesdropping on the Designers Behind French Rocker-Chic Brand Zadig & Voltaire
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In this weekly feature, InStyle’s Fashion News Director Eric Wilson shares his favorite fashion moment of the week, and explains how it could shape styles to come. Look for it on What’s Right Now every Friday.

Zadig & Voltaire is French for rock and chic.

Well, not literally, but if you’ve ever encountered this adorably energetic Parisian label during it’s recent expansion into the American market, then you’ll recognize its combination of youthful free-spiritedness with a level of sophistication that still appeals to grown-up tastes. The contemporary fashion company has opened five stores in New York City alone over the last five years, and plans to further develop its brand presence now that it has added a big-brand design talent to its roster.

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Cecilia Bönström, who has been artistic director for more than a decade at Zadig & Voltaire, has recruited as her co-designer Paulo Melim Andersson this season (both pictured, above). You might recognize his name from recent roles as creative director at Marni and Chloé. It turns out that Bönström and Andersson come from the same Swedish town, Gothenburg, only two years apart in age, but had never met before. Their first collaboration, shown at Paris Fashion Week, suggested they are a good match, what with all the fun patchwork fake furs and lace-and-leather looks.

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So I asked for an introduction.

“He worked for these beautiful big high-end luxury brands before, but sometimes, you are destined to meet,” Bönström told me when we met in Paris. “I can start a phrase, and he actually finishes it. My style is very androgynous, and he’s very feminine. It seems we were meant to do this together.”

I started to ask a question or two, but Bönström was right. As with most fashion people, it’s more fun just to listen to these two talk as they get started discussing their first collaboration on the fall collection.

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“I know what I like,” Anderson said. “I think, 'Maybe I’ll make her a little filthy. A little underwear going on.' Imagine a girl leaving a club at 5 o’clock in the morning.”

“Fur, leather, maybe lace,” Bönström said.

“A hint of underwear,” Andersson said.

“Studded underwear,” Bönström said. “But in a white, pure way. I love collisions.”

“We’re talking about a naughty girl, with lingerie and studs,” Andersson said.

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“This is a huge change,” Bönström said. “I’ve been head of design alone all these years, but with him by my side, it gives me the strength to go further. It’s very exciting to come to the office and have a ping-pong match. He’s like me. It’s like a marriage. We could have been best friends. He went to the same school as my brother. He’s very shy. I’m very social. I’m normal and he’s crazy. His jokes are naughty. And Swedish words are not possible for other ears to understand unless you are Swedish.”

“But there’s a lot of giggling going on between us,” Andersson said.

“We’re lucky to have found each other,” Bönström said. “I do A. He does A-plus. If I start on a blouse and it becomes a best seller, he develops it into something else. He has the talent of painting and drawing very well, so I show him a fabric and he goes from there.”

“She gives me the proposal of allure,” Andersson said. “I come with the technical details.”

“He paints it so beautifully,” Bönström said.

“It’s not Picasso,” Andersson said. “It’s just fashion illustration. I have a tailoring background and I’m quite anal about details. The world is so full of so many clothes – I have so many gray cardigans, but I only buy them if they are really special. That’s the future. No one in our world is really missing anything. If it doesn’t charm you you’re not going to open your wallet for it. Hopefully I’m at Zadig & Voltaire to create a little electricity. They didn’t hire me to say yes, yes, yes. For it to by dynamic, it needs a little electricity.”

“And I’ve been here 10 years, so I know exactly what I want, but I need something to excite me, too,” Bönström said. “And he excites me.”

“It’s like when you’re dating,” Andersson said. “If you want it to be over in three months, you go full throttle. But if you want it to last, you take it easy. We’re not 23 years old. It’s mutual respect, and I hope there’s going to be longevity to it.”

“I needed to find someone that even if I didn’t, I would like to spend the weekend with,” Bönström said. “Tonight, would you have dinner with me?”

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