Fabrice Desvaux de Marigny: When Businessman Meets Beauty Queen
Words Sophie Wilson
The CSM graduate’s BA collection, featuring tight leather trousers, glitz and tailoring, was inspired by an affair his father had ten years ago.
Fabrice Desvaux de Marigny’s graduate collection married both menswear and womenswear, and was inspired by two real people: his father and his father’s mistress. “I wanted to make clothes that are relatable and that people actually want to put on their backs, as opposed to art pieces,” he says of the vision he developed throughout his BA at Central Saint Martins. “It was about merging the two worlds together,” the designer says. “My father was this very traditional businessman who wore a suit to work, very conventional. She was a young, beautiful pageant girl. She was Miss Mauritius.”
“The key to this was thinking about my dad as a man having a midlife crisis, trying to be a lot younger and cooler, but it comes across as sleazy. All of his clothes got a bit tighter. Things got a lot sexier,” he explains. Tight-fitting suits, chest-baring shirts and leather trousers hinted at this sexed-up twist on conventional markers of masculinity. “Thinking about the womenswear side was about looking into this very tacky pageantry and what they thought was really glamorous,” adds Fabrice, alluding to the over-the-top embellished pink satin dress and the hot pink accessories added to the closing bridal look.
Merging two sides of a heterosexual relationship meant that Fabrice had to consider whether to show his collection on men, women or both. Despite studying menswear, he initially planned to use female models for the more feminine looks, wary of avoiding the clichés associated with gender-fluid clothing. “My tutors said I should try the dresses on boys and it actually looked a lot more interesting,” he says. “I wouldn’t necessarily market it that way but, in terms of making the show a little more bizarre, I think it was better to have male models.”
Access to fashion in Mauritius, where Fabrice grew up, was limited to magazines from his local supermarket. It was difficult to research fashion or find visual inspiration. Practicalities aside, however, this isolation allowed the designer to create a fantasy of fashion that inspired him to pursue it as a career. “You really start to dream,” he says. “You ask yourself, what is this world out there? What are other people doing?” Yet the designer laments the fact that he had to move back to his hometown so soon after completing his degree. It’s where he was waiting until he got his French work visa to move to Paris and work at Givenchy, a job he was offered over a phone call having spent half of his placement year there.
However, Fabrice’s universe in Mauritius continues to fuel his imagination in unexpected ways. “It’s really beautiful, but there’s nothing there in terms of fashion. I am really inspired by these housewives that do absolutely nothing though. They’re around me all day, my mum and her friends,” he explains. “Some of them work. Some of them don’t do anything. They just live in really nice houses and they have the most impeccable taste. I’d love to explore that in my work in the future because these women are actually the number one customer who buy all these wonderful clothes so understanding them is really interesting.”
Few of Fabrice’s peers stayed in London after finishing their degrees. Most either returned to their home countries or went straight to Paris, which is still home to most of the big houses that can support a visa for fashion school graduates. With Brexit looming and the UK’s increasingly stringent regulations, the amount of time that fashion students spend waiting for visas to study at London’s fashion schools looks set to increase. Fabrice does not, however, believe that this will change the number of people wanting to come here to study—but it will make getting there more difficult. “London will always be desirable. It is a dream for many people, just as it was for me,” he says. “People come to London because it’s got the best fashion schools and they want to study there, but I think it’s quite rare for everyone who studies there to stay there afterwards. That’s just how it is.”
Nonetheless, having the right passport is still a pressing concern for graduates. So much so that acquiring a European passport is tied in with Fabrice’s future goals. “Hopefully I will get a European husband so I can have a nice passport because the Mauritian one’s not cutting it,” he says, half-jokingly, but the practicalities of having the right passport are increasingly at the forefront of fashion students’ minds.
When it comes to future plans, Fabrice seems content to go with the flow. “You expect the unexpected. I never thought I’d have a job so quickly, so in a few years either I’ll be fired, or I’ll be a senior designer. I don’t know what’s going to make me happy.” In a time marked by uncertainty, expecting the unexpected might be the best way forward.