Lecoanet Hemant: The Orientalists of Haute Couture
Museum for Lace and Fashion, Calais
June 18 – December 31, 2022
The Calais Museum for Lace and Fashion presents the first retrospective exhibition dedicated to the Lecoanet Hemant fashion house. lt unveils more than forty years of designs blending the art of French couture with the spirit of the East. From the first creations produced by Lecoanet Hemant in its initial incarnation as a Paris-based haute couture house to today’s ready-to-wear outfits designed in India, more than eighty silhouettes are on show visualised in graphic and colourful staging.
The Lecoanet Hemant fashion brand was founded in Paris in 1981 by Didier Lecoanet and Hemant Sagar. One of the most inventive of that period, the fashion house offered exuberant and luxurious fashion. Between 1984 and 2000, thirty-three officially-labelled haute couture collections were created, aimed at a cosmopolitan international clientele. The audacity displayed by the couture house was recognised in 1994 with the award of the Dé d’Or (Golden Thimble Award).
In 2000, Didier Lecoanet and Hemant Sagar left Paris for New Delhi, abandoning haute couture made to-measure for ready-to-wear mass production, a process hitherto unknown in India where shapes and the techniques used remained married to tradition. For twenty years, they have been turning out fashion designs for men and for women in which they fuse Indian know-how – enhanced by inventiveness – with the spirit of French couture.
The insatiable duo of globe-trotters brings back from their numerous travels objects and fabrics which inspire them in the creation of the shimmering and sophisticated models that characterise the Lecoanet Hemant look, a melding of textiles and cultures. Present from their very beginnings, variants of the Indian sari and its drapes are omnipresent in their work. The theme of nature has also appeared from the very first collections, with pieces made from plant, mineral or animal-based materials: raffia, wood, shells, and rice paper.
The visitor is invited on a journey in an abundance of shapes, patterns and textures in the colours of the East. Sumptuous evening gowns, opulent coats and structured suits are presented in the aesthetic world of the couture house thanks to a scenography inspired by themes dose to the designers’ hearts, combining sound, image, video and text.
Fashion according to Lecoanet Hemant has taken a more environmentally aware turn since their move to India, in particular through their effort to promote Ramie, one of the world’s oldest textile plants. The exhibition thus presents a selection of objects created by established Indian designers, made from this natural fibre which is a member of the nettle family and is locally produced. Lecoanet Hemant has also launched «Ayurganic», a line of garments based on the principles of Ayurveda, a traditional Indian system. The organic textiles used in this collection are produced artisanally and offer the benefit of medicinal plants.