This was the question that designer Aaliyah Picanso asked Parisian tailor Joris Duval in 2014. Aaliyah found beauty in tailor craftsmanship with hand-stitched perfect lines and wondered why this luxury was specialized specifically in menswear. A lively conversation ensued, resulting in both individuals deciding to combine their artistic forces to recreate and modernize the concept of bespoke tailoring for women.
Can you share your story and experiences before launching Vigo?
Joris: I was always the outcast when I was a child. My mind wandered and I found it incredibly difficult to concentrate in my elementary and middle school classes. I was constantly imagining, drawing, thinking…just spacing out. The teachers would ask to speak with my parents, usually resulting in recommending that I seek psychological counselling. I could not focus on what was asked of me academically but I discovered a passion for styling and fashion. At 14, my parents and I agreed that my artistic outlets would be best discovered by going to a styling school in Paris. I graduated when I was 18 but still felt…empty. One day, I stumbled upon the film “Borsalino” with John Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon which made me say, “I want to learn how to make those suits.” I found a tailoring school in Paris where I expanded upon my talents and learned the fine of art of French artisanship. I have spent a large part of my life involved in this industry, it was something that I was born for.
Aaliyah: From a young age I always felt very privileged. By the age of 12 I had discovered most of Europe thanks to my uncle who was a Sergeant Major in the U.S. army. Traveling taught me so much more than I could ever learn in a textbook, and experiences that I’ve had have helped me nourish the ideas and open spirit I have today. At the age of 18, I was accepted at the American University of Paris where I graduated with a Bachelors in both Global Communications and Psychology. During this time, I worked for several fashion brands and found my niche. It was then that I knew I wanted to do something involved with fashion for the rest of my life.
What is Vigo and who is it intended for?
Aaliyah: Vigo is a luxury, bespoke couture brand made for the modern yet classic woman. Vigo nourishes every woman’s individual personality and fosters a space for it to be expressed. Every piece is handmade, start to finish, in our Parisian atelier. With one sole tailor, attention to detail is the key to attaining true craftsmanship and pieces that will last a lifetime. Staying true to our core values of honesty, integrity, and French artisanship, we construct bespoke couture pieces that deliver timeless style and the utmost quality. By assembling each piece uniquely to match the morphology of each client, we create an individualistic experience and create a memorable experience for each client.
Joris: Women are led to believe that their bodies are difficult because they don’t fit into regular ready-to-wear sizes, but ready-to-wear is constructed of horrible cuts. That’s why nothing fits! Vigo is intended for women, all women, of any shape and size. Vigo shows women their true, beautiful body and how to appreciate it, which is what I think makes our jobs so rewarding.
You have an established client base, how have people discovered Vigo?
Aaliyah: Through word of mouth and our use of social media. We do not use heavy marketing techniques, because we’re not interested in exploding. Of course, we want to be successful, but all we ask is that people invest in the business by buying pieces that allow us to expand our creativity. We’re very thankful to our clients who have provided this opportunity and continue to spread the word of Vigo.
You’re a self-proclaimed “anti-fashion” and “anti-mass-production” brand…
Aaliyah: We’re anti-fashion because fashion today is about seasonal fashion shows that tell you what the highlight of the next season will be. I could never dream of that for Vigo because we’re searching for timeless style, not something that is going to last a season and then fade at the start of another. Also, because every piece is bespoke, Vigo doesn’t create a generalized size “34”, “36”, etc. We appreciate the uniqueness of each woman’s body and want to celebrate it by highlighting it and dressing it the best way we can. Every time we create a piece for a client, it can never be replicated. From fit, to details, to the fabric chosen, every piece is unique. This is truly what makes us “anti-fashion”…it’s nothing you see on runways, but it’s something you actually see on real women in the street, in the workplace, anywhere and everywhere.
Joris: Regarding “anti-mass-production”, we make everything in our workshop because I take pride in using the training and schooling that I’ve had. We don’t use factories. Much of the fashion available today, even with luxury brands, is started and finished in foreign factories for a fraction of the cost, followed by overcharging products to finance their marketing. We’re very transparent with our clients and assure that the quality of their piece is overseen in our Parisian workshop and never made using mass-production techniques. We are very strict on this principle and it will always remain a foundation of our philosophy at Vigo.
Take us through the creation process.
Joris: We first welcome people and try to get a feel of what they are looking for, if it is a model or if they have an idea for a customized design. We get a sense of their style and taste, and we take their measurements. We then finalize details and prepare the first fitting, which is done in white cotton. This allows us to show the client what their piece will look like. At the second fitting, we show them a mock-up and fix or add any details. The client chooses from a variety of fabrics according to their preferred color and texture. We then begin work on the actual piece. We usually aim to have 1 to 2 fittings during this process to fix any problems or changes. The piece is then finalized and delivered to the client.
Aaliyah: The time frame for a piece varies, depending on its complexity and client availability for fittings. Most of our skirts take around 25-30 hours to complete with fittings. Fittings are important because we aim for the ultimate bespoke fit. We take explicit care in all of the handmade work, with precision in every stitch. As much as 95% of every piece is done by hand. More complex couture pieces such as coats can take up to 4 -5 months.
You seem to complement each other perfectly. How would you describe the other’s role and outlook?
Joris: Aaliyah is the brains. She designs and comes up with the ideas and I am simply the hands that put her ideas together. She really doubted herself in the beginning but when she showed me her sketches they were so complex with unique cuts and designs, it really showed her personality. I loved it. Because each experience with Vigo is personal, she takes time to learn the personal story of each client and finds ways to incorporate that into the design of each piece. She has a personal touch with the clients that allows her to create personalized pieces that transcend from the ordinary to something magnificent.
Aaliyah: Joris always pushed my limits. Every time I had an eccentric idea and doubted myself, he was always there to say, “Well why wouldn’t you do it?” He really pushes my creativity and shows me that literally nothing is impossible. His role in the business and in my life is a supportive, encouraging role. I used to have so many insecurities and he helped me discover my strengths and grow upon them.
You both look amazing wearing Vigo today. Tell us about the pieces you’re wearing.
Joris: I am wearing flannel trousers, a waist coat, and long cashmere jacket that I made. I need to continuously train my hand. This is necessary for all tailors, practice certainly makes perfect.
Aaliyah: I am wearing La Vivienne, a skirt made using a grain-de-poudre fabric with a 360 cut that is designed to provide ample volume. I love the volume this skirt provides because it’s very romantic and feminine. The top is vintage. At first, I wasn’t sold on the combination of violet and green, but experimenting with colors has shown me that yes, it works!
Did you ever find an answer to the question that started Vigo? Why was is so hard for women to find a tailor?
Joris: When we started Vigo, we spent months literally just staring at pictures by tailors who dressed women to decide why the lines weren’t as “clean” as they were with men. My first response was, “women have curves”, it is the most obvious answer and it is the most problematic. Many tailors who dress women are men and use men’s patterns as a base to cut blazers, trousers, etc. The key to dressing a woman and being the perfect tailor for a woman is very simple, remember she is a woman.
For more information visit www.vigoparis.com