Interview: Clément Taverniti of STILL GOOD Talks Dries Van Noten, Kitsune, and How to Build A Clothing Brand

Interview: Clément Taverniti of STILL GOOD Talks Dries Van Noten, Kitsune, and How to Build A Clothing BrandDesigner Clément Taverniti. Photo by Liz Barclay.

Clément Taverniti isn't your average 24-year-old. The French designer launched his brand STILL GOOD in 2010 as a line of T-shirts, before branching out into a full-on collection this past fall. There are plenty of awesome French brands killing it right now, and STILL GOOD is one up-and-coming label worth paying attention to. Taverniti cut his teeth working under designer Dries Van Noten, and then learned the basics of good branding and marketing from Masaya Kuroki, creative director of luxury clothing line Kitsuné.

The result is a brand that offers European-made gear sourced from the finest Italian and Japanese fabrics. But Taverniti also hopes to express his appreciation for the art world through his clothes too. His recently launched Le Mur Blanc project hopes to find and highlight new talent. We took some time to chat with him about STILL GOOD, Dries Van Noten, and what it takes to have a great brand.

Clothing seems to be the family business. Your brother works in the denim industry. And your dad, Jimmy Taverniti has been in business since the ‘80s. In fact the name STILL GOOD is derived from one of his ad campaigns, correct?
Yes that’s right , actually my father launched his own brand during the ‘80s in the south of France.

Where  in France are you from originally?
Toulouse South of France, Toulouse in a small city. But gradually when I studied fashion I really wanted to create my own stuff. 

You started out with tee shirt brand, right? And you won a contest?
Yeah I wont a contest—it was in 2010. I started thinking about launching my own brand when I moved to Paris to study fashion, and I was planning to work in fashion.

Which fashion school did you go to?
Yes, I went to Esmod. Like I said, I was planning to work in fashion.

And then you found a job with Dries Van Noten?

 

I love Dries Van Noten's idea of mixing fabrics. I really want to do that, but more affordable.

 


Yes, I was working for the design team in Belgium, because they have the head office there. That was one year. And then I decided to come back to Paris. I was still working for Dries but at the communication and press office.

While in Belgium, did you learn a lot about design and things like fabrication and production? 
Oh yes, it was really amazing, I think it was the best experience I had in my life.

Dries is known for these patterns and like crazy materials, like their new collection has shirts that are a mixture of silk texture and camouflage. Did that inspire STILL GOOD?
I’ve been inspired by Dries a lot, I have to say that. I love his idea of mixing fabrics. I really want to do that also, but more affordable. I wanted to make a brand that was easy to wear, but be able to show that it’s still good as a designer brand.

Gradually I want to do that but I really, I really learned from the Dries van Noten work. I was working with a big team, only passionate people, it was crazy and, so yes I’vebeen very inspired by him.

Did you get to work with Dries directly?
Actually, yes. He was there every day in the office. I was working with the design team, and he was the boss of that team, so yeah I was working with him like every day.

That’s like working with your idol.
Yeah, it was.

So did you learn about like doing factories and sourcing stuff?
Yes, we were finding the fabrics he wanted, and it was interesting because we could come up with some ideas and offer them to him. That was very exciting. 

What was the design process like over there?
We were chatting with everybody to decide something, so it was very collective work, you see. That was very great.  It was a good experience and I learned a lot. From how to make a garment, how to finish it very well, and all the details that go into a garment—all the seams, the different linings. It was very interesting. 

And then you went over to Kitsuné. What brought you over to them?
I worked for Kitsuné’s sales manager actually and I was finding new business for them. When I was working for them, it was more like a small, quiet office. 

They’ve definitely has grown a lot in the past two years.
Yes, crazy! Back then I was involved in different activities for the brand.

Is that when you first started going to Capsule and tradeshows?
Yes I was doing Capsule with Kitsuné and so I was there in the booth to present the collection, but I worked also with creative director Masaya Kuroki. I was working with him on finding some ideas. There’s him and then there is Gildas Loaëc, who is more into the music label., One managing the fashion brand and one managing the music label. I was only involved in the fashion part but it was very interesting because for me it’s one of the best examples of what brands were becoming .

It’s like high fashion but at the same time, the clothing is very accessible and it has a wide appeal.
It’s a superb concept. For me, marketing is the key to the success of a brand. You have to bring something other than clothing. They were bringing like music, promoting new artists’ music—that’s crazy because people like, when they choose a garment they say, okay I don’t only buy a tee shirt... 

They buy a mixtape.
Yeah that’s right, kind of that idea.

I feel like that’s a very Parisian thing to do, brands like Surface to Air have a similar concept. But I think what differentiates the two is that Kitsuné seems to have placed itself as a luxury label, you know you go to their store and everything is above four hundred dollars.
Yeah it’s very expensive. But they’re also like, keeping the good quality up, initially keeping the market in Europe and in Italy, and I think they managed to create their own market, their own customers.

What’s funny also at the end of the day is that all the customers who are buying the clothing are not really aware that the brand is also a music label. And the guys who are like buying music may not pay attention to the fashion. So it’s crazy because they got two different customers but at the end of the day they can discover the clothing line or get interested in the music label.

It’s almost like you’re selling like a lifestyle in a way.

 

For me, marketing is the key to the success of a brand. You have to bring something other than clothing.

 


I’m trying, I’m trying because doing clothing today is hard.  You have to have a financial structure, do trade shows and fashion shows like Dries van Noten does, I think it’s kind of hard. So I want to bring something else more than clothing and as I am very, very, very interested in art in general I wanted to create something around this universe.

My aim is trying to find new, young artists, give them the possibility to share their work on the website on the space called Le Mur Blanc which is “the white wall” in English. They can share their work, and it’s like a big wall with all these different works from different universes, different artists. And then I will choose one artist that I like, and l do a collaboration with him or her—maybe on a T-shirt, and possibly show their in a gallery or in a concept store.

And you obviously have all these connections with all these artists and galleries in Paris.
I have some connections with galleries because I’ve been in touch with them from Dries van Noten and Kitsuné. So the aim is to present the work at a gallery or store. The aim isn’t to sell the work, it’s to find new artists and to show and promote new work. It’s not really about money. It’s about discovering and enriching talent, and showing also my passion for art.

In terms of Le Mur Blanc, what kind of talents have you discovered, any particular?
At this time there are like four or five artists that have showed their work on Le Mur Blanc. There is one very interesting I just seen one week ago he’s called Ernesto Artillo. 
He’s doing a lot of patchwork, collage, and his work attracted me. So far I’ve gotten good feedback and everybody told me it’s a good idea. I’m always trying to come up with these concepts explaining what is the aim, in order to make it more famous and to get more artists involved, so we will see how it goes. It will take time, I think, but it’s okay because this is only to discover passionate people and artists.

Speaking of artists, spring 2013 collection inspired by Barnett Newman famous for his variegated colors and like the zips in his paintings how did you try to translate that into the clothes, into the collection? There’s also a little bit of athletic influence in there.
If you see the full range of the collection, you will see some tee shirts inspired by the work of Barnett Newman. The line is very modern and very minimalist. I really like his work, and I like this idea of modern art and minimalist art. So for example you can see some of the contrast and lines that refer to some of his work. There are cut-and-sewn fabrics that are influenced by his simple drawings.

You did a collaboration with Spring Court previously, and recently dropped a collab with Ebbetts Field Flannels. What's your dream collaboration?
The Spring Court collaboration happened because of Capsule. I met him there and he said we could workt together. In the future I’m planning to work with Dickies, the workwear brand. I’m a huge fan of what they do and would love to have them associated with STILL GOOD. 

The first real big collection was Fall/Winter 2012. What were some of the inspirations behind it besides Dries Van Noten?
Junya Watanabe, Marni… I like the idea of taking a clean shape and applying a mix of fabrics. I wanted to identify the brand with the fabric mix, and deconstruction of something like a shirt, in order to create a new way of wearing it. The best example that illustrates this is the short-weave zip shirt. It really exemplifies the style of the brand. So does the shirt with jersey sleeves. It’s the idea of taking an elegant product and mixing it with sporty things like fleece.

You’re pretty much running a one-man operation. But you learned how to make the clothes from Dries Van Noten, and a little of the PR/marketing side through Kitsuné. What are some of the practices these guys taught you?
I think it’s very important to wear both hats­—design and marketing. This is my own project, so it’s not easy, but it’s easier to have creative control. You’re able to sell and show your product, and your love for it. But I’m more into the design. 

My aim is to just do the design, but have a good team doing all the sales. For Fall/Winter 2013, I’m bringing in a team to help me. I have a showroom in New York and a team in Japan. So gradually, I’m only focusing on the designs. But I think when you launch something, it’s important to be aware of both of these things. 

How has the brand been received, and where do you see it going?
I have about 40 stockists around the world. So it’s going well. But I’m managing everything, so it’s tough. But it’s my passion, so I won’t stop. When I launched the brand, I knew exactly where I wanted it to be sold. I was trying to discover all the stores, blogs, and magazines in the market to create the brand vision and what brands I wanted to be sold with.

So the first collection I wanted to be sold with Wood Wood, Norse Projects… sort of street culture, and then gradually move towards a more high-end look. Now I have stockists that not only carry Norse Projects and Wood Wood, but also Rick Owens, Dries Van Noten, and Marni. More stores are mixing high-end brands with street brands, like Tres Bien Shop.

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