02 December 2010

Grazia Daily chats to Paris-based designer Olympia Le-Tan!

We loved Natalie Portman on the red carpet for the premiere of Black Swan and aside from the stunning off-the-shoulder Dior gown and strong dark lips, it was the curious little clutch she carried that caught our eye. Is it a book? Is it a bag? But of course, it’s Olympia Le-Tan, the Paris-based designer whose whimsical creations are inspired by literary masterpieces and would not be out of a place in the hands of one of their dramatic heroines. No surprise then that chic and bright young things like Natalie and Clémence Poesy – who took hers along to the Harry Potter premiere last month – chose them.

We caught up with Olympia to get her reaction to Natalie’s appearance, find out what inspired the creation of the ‘book clutch’ and what could one possible hide in one of them. Think film noir!

Grazia Daily: Olympia, we were so excited to see Natalie Portman choose your 'Lolita' bag for her premiere! How did you feel when you saw the images and did you know in advance what Natalie would be wearing or was it a complete surprise?
Olympia Le-Tan: I was so excited and very proud! I knew it was a possibility but it was still a huge surprise when I saw it.

Grazia Daily: This comes, of course, just a couple of weeks after Clémence Poesy carried an Olympia Le-Tan bag in the Harry Potter premiere. Is there a specific girl/muse that you design for?

Olympia Le-Tan: I mainly design things that I want to wear myself. I suppose the specific girl would be someone classic and quirky. A literary girl with a sense of humour. Clémence and Natalie are perfect muses as they are also incredibly beautiful and stylish.

Grazia Daily: How do you choose which books to recreate? Do you have a long list of favourites or are you inspired by a certain film, artist, mood first?

Olympia Le-Tan: The very first ones I made were from my list of favourites. And since then, as I want to keep doing the book bags, I have a theme for each season and find books with amusing colours that are part of the story.

Grazia Daily: When did you decide to design bags and how/where did the idea of the 'book clutch' come from?
Olympia Le-Tan: I was already making bags as a hobby 12 years ago. I would make a few pieces for friends or shops occasionally. All hand-made by me. Last year I decided to do it more seriously and actually set up a business. That's when I came up with the "book clutch" idea. I suppose growing up in a house full of beautiful old books is what inspired me. I also loved those little treasure boxes, which were books with cut-out pages where you could hide a key, a gun or a small bottle of something. I guess my bags are the fashion version of those boxes!

Grazia Daily: Each bag is an exquisite small piece of art! Could you describe to us the process of making them? I'm guessing each one is hand-stitched and I love the printed lining!
Olympia Le-Tan: Yes, each one is completely hand-stitched. First, I pick the cover and then make the embroidery based on the drawing of the cover. The embroidery is felt appliqué cut-outs and silk thread embroidery. I then give the embroidery to a small workshop where it is mounted onto a brass frame and lined with Liberty print fabric. They are all limited editions, numbered on the back and hand-made with love in France.

Grazia Daily: Is there one that's your personal favourite and how do you like to wear yours?
Olympia Le-Tan: Every season I have a new favourite! The first one was The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, the second one was the On The Road mini brief case and from my new collection my favourite is a science fiction book by William Tenn. I like the idea of wearing several together, piling them up like a real pile of books!

Grazia Daily: Will there be more book clutches to come or are you doing something different for the next collection?
Olympia Le-Tan: I think I will keep doing the book clutches for a while as there are so many I can do, but I will definitely also do something different like the globe bag I did for this season.

Grazia Daily: Finally, who else would you love to see with one of your bags and which one would you choose for them?
Olympia Le-Tan: I would love to see Carson McCullers wearing The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, but unless I can make a time machine beforehand, that won't be possible..

Olympia Le-Tan bags are available at Browns in London and on www.colette.fr

- Kiki Georgiou


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