Isaac Sellam is a master in the art of reinventing leather, while carefully avoiding reinventing himself. With an unquenchable thirst for freedom, the designer pushes the cursor further and further, refining the details, digging into the work on the material, and reaffirming a guiding line free of any concession.
Leclaireur: Rumor has it that you started creating your own clothes at a very young age...
IS: Ha! So, in the 80's, I was dreaming of a Chevignon, the famous down jacket with the duck in the back that all teenagers were snatching up at the time. I obviously couldn't afford it, so I decided to make a copy of it, on the machines that were at home, and that I had brought back to my room. As soon as I wore it, it was instantaneous: someone wanted me to make one for them, and the requests followed. I used to go to the feather seller on rue de Charonne, who sold materials for making cushions. She would fill my down jackets and I would go home. The kitchen was full of feathers, my mother was screaming! I sold the down jackets to friends, who told their friends about me... I sold a lot of them, I was able to save some money. I was 16 years old !
L: Afterwards, you became a pattern maker, to master the cutting techniques, the manufacturing process...
IS: I think I've always been, more simply, curious. When I make something, I'm interested in every step of the manufacturing process. Even when I'm redecorating my apartment: I like to see what painters do and how, I like to observe the way furniture is made.
L: What has changed since your first designs? How has your way of designing clothes evolved?
IS: I have always wanted to offer something different, without following fashion or trends. I believe that you have to break away from fashion at all costs: find new techniques, new materials, things that stand out and that, without being commercial, are nevertheless wearable. I try to do things my way.
L: How would you define the Isaac Sellam experience?
IS: I chose the name Isaac Sellam Experience because I had a lot of experience before I started my own brand! It's kind of the experience I had, added to the experience I have through my clothes.
L: This backbone that makes an Isaac Sellam garment recognizable at first glance, the raw yet ultra-sophisticated side of your skins... What is the reason for this?
IS: Oh my... I don't know! I only do things with love, only for love, and that's it. I don't... I'm not trying to impress anybody. I just do what I want to do. My little back staples, it started from a crush, I had spotted them at a friend's house, on a carpet. I was already using diagonal staples, and I immediately tried to adapt them to the effect of the rug, which had caught my eye. It took me a long time to find the right system.
L: Do the men's and women's collections require different approaches?
IS: Generally speaking, I work on the detail first. The silhouette and the garment come later. The approach is different, especially for the winter collections. I take my time for the Winter Men's collection. I think, I refine and everything arrives at the end of January. When I start the Women's Winter collection, which must be ready by the beginning of March, time is already short, we work day and night.
L: What does your ideal day look like during the creation phase?
IS: When I'm at my best, a perfect day would look like... two days. Let's say I can spend the day dreaming up a piece, make the pattern in the evening, give it to cut the next morning, and get the prototype out a few hours later. I don't need to make technical sheets... I'm a small restaurant, not a big chain! Everything is made here, in the workshop, everything is made on site, from start to finish, with a team of 14 people. The product has to last, it has to be appreciated at its true value. We put a lot of respect into our clothes, and we hope they inspire that same respect. I'm against over-consumption, because I think it's a lack of respect for what we make.
L: You have been collaborating with Leclaireur since 2004...
IS: When I launched my brand, I was already thinking of knocking directly on Leclaireur's door. At the first meeting on Rue Hérold, I had to wait for almost an hour and a half and when he arrived, Armand told me it was too early. Things changed when I went to the Tranoi in Austerlitz, where Armand saw python jackets and sent me his buyer who took one jacket. Only one! But it was sold... Leclaireur reordered, slowly. It was when I switched to crocodile that a beautiful story began to unfold, and Armand really took me seriously. Today, I have the privilege to be a part of the family.
Creative Direction: La Frenchy (Mary-Noelle Dana, Michael Hadida) for Leclaireur
Pictures & Editing : Véronique Adler
Music : For All Intents and Purposes by Falling For Frankie (SuperPitch)
Personal Archives : Isaac Sellam Experience.