Q&A | St-Henri AW19

by Corrine Ciani

St-Henri unveiled the Autumn/Winter 2019 collection during Men’s London Fashion Week set in a motel mirage that revealed a streetwear take on western workwear. The brand, which was founded in 2017, reflects the designer’s French Canadian culture and is known for its signature Americana wardrobe.

Creative director and fashion designer Jean-Loup Leblanc Roy explores a deconstruction of workwear staples through acid-washed denim, a puffer vest, and cowboy style belt, big buckle included. We spoke with the Montrel-born, London-based fashion designer about inspiration, the color red, and what’s next for St. Henri.

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Your style looks like a stripped down Americana, at its most essential and moody, what inspired you about the fashion movement? What would you say is your interpretation of it?

I grew up in countryside Quebec, on the border of Vermont. I would say that Americana fashion is part of my identity rather than being only inspired by it. I moved to Montreal when I was 19, then lived a bit in Hong Kong and then London. The modernity, energy and the distinct style identities of these cities in combination with various life experiences informed and elevated my vision. That became the St-Henri signature. 

There seems to be an equal balance of clothes for both genders, yet they seem to be interchangeable like your pieces could look great on any boy or girl? Was that your intention or is that important to you in your art direction?

My design philosophy is very much product based rather than “look” oriented.  Therefore, the styling comes together very organically at the end along with the casting. The interchangeability is a result of this I believe.

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What was the inspiration behind St-Henri // AW19 Presentation?

To create a room which was at the same time very familiar and strangely mysterious, comforting yet uncanny. I wanted to play with these dichotomies to create a “magical” room.

What did St-Henri try to evolve from their previous winter/autumn collection.

More depth and richness of details. 

The colors seem limited to primary colors, brighter and more muted versions of this. Was this to make everything contrast enough to go well together? What attracted you to a primary color palette?

Red was my main focus and the rest grew from there. Red because for me it’s the colour that represents North America. I think for example of a red pick up truck (my first car), a cherry pie or the Red Room in Twin Peaks. It’s raw, homely and mysterious. 

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What is the story in the press releases? Who are these people?

When I design it helps me to have a gang in mind. I give them a personality, most of the time they are outcast and free. 

Was the task of updated Americana to streetwear difficult? What were some of the challenges in translating your vision into clothes that kids would want to wear?

It’s quite easy because I come from a streetwear background and I want to make clothes that I would want to wear. I’m obsessed by Japanese labels and their attention to quality and detailing. 

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How does St. Henry think of innovative cuts and looks for menswear? How do you question masculinity and manipulate it?

I love to play between tight and cropped fights in opposition with oversizing. It’s like having a kid wearing adult clothes or a teenager that would grow too quick. For me it’s about bringing out the boyish side of masculinity. I think it’s about joy and bliss.  

What are you most proud about in the scope of your seasons and in this one? Where is St. Henri headed toward?

I’m really proud of our first presentation. It was an incredible teamwork and such a great learning curve. I’m proud of what we have done, starting the brand from scratch. Everything is DIY. Next season will be the time to expand our offer to more items needed on the daily, such as shoes, belts and bags. Making more looks as well is the aim, and perhaps working on capsules, in order to have more episodes to our story than the twice-a-year collections. I also wish to go to Japan to visit manufacturers and mills, where some of our fabrics are already coming from.

Photos courtesy of St-Henri