Just what brings a French designer to set up shop in London? We sat down with Nathalie Coste, whose exciting eponymous label hits a lot of cultural touchstones, to talk about her aesthetic, her sourcing, and how her fashion career brought her to her current style.
Explain your background for us, and how you got to where you are today.
I am Nathalie Coste, I am a fashion designer. I’ve been working since five years around upcycling, only with dead stock fabrics, for making short series – like capsule collections – and also focusing on uniqueness, most of the time uniqueness. My fabrics are reconstructed vintage t-shirts from rock and roll bands, most of the time metal bands, that I reshape and embroider. It’s my best seller, and the clothes that I like to work on.
I was in the fashion industry as a stylist and patternmaker for more than 20 years now, and I decided to stop because it was just like a nightmare. I really loved my job since my childhood, but I think the kind of system in France is you need a lot of money to have your first collection by yourself. Because I like my job, I decided to work in the industry, but I was not working on my dream. Just to raise my children and have a good life.
Now my children are adults, and we decided to move to London from Paris, and I decided to break from the industry. To work with upcycling, clean fashion, clean for the planet and with a real purpose of unique pieces. With nice finishing, because I’ve worked in the high fashion industry too, making dresses and wedding dresses, and I like nice clothes inside and outside. Like kind of a present for my customers.
Why did you decide to come to London?
Part of my family is already in London – my daughter – since seven years. And finally, it’s a dream. When I was young, my first shopping for a brand was in London, when I was 18, and it was like love at first sight. My mind for years was full of London, and now finally I am here.
Where do you get your inspiration when you look at the clothes you upcycle?
Most of the time music. Music and photographs. It’s a kind of passion for me, but first of all it’s music – I love it.
Where do you source your vintage clothing?
I have some of my friends that gig around the world, and they update me when they are in a huge concert with a band that I like, and take t-shirts back. A lot of the time I find them with collectors, there’s a lot of vintage band t-shirts collectors that I know now, and we exchange. I don’t customise all my pieces, because sometimes they’re too small, I can’t reshape the t-shirt because I need very big size. We make exchanges, or most of the time I buy collections from the USA.
How would you describe your personal style?
Depends on the day, but I like to be very comfortable with my clothing, but at the same time I like glitter, I like make-up, I like jewels. Something very girly but with a lot of comfort. I can imagine that I can travel in one hour, I can plan for that, I can plan to have a dinner in a restaurant and just pick up my jewellery without changing any of my clothes.
What are you working on right now?
I’m a little bit late, but it’s really difficult to have a season for me. Since I work in London, and I have my showroom too with Valeriya, I can follow seasons. It’s easier to plan collections, because when I worked in France, I was just working with unique pieces and it was really difficult to imagine a season. I think for a few years I had a need to cut with the scissors, because I was a slave to the scissor when I was working in fast fashion, but now it’s fine. I’ve finished the summer for next year, and I’m beginning to think about the winter.
What’s your biggest dream?
To find good places to have London shows for my brand. That’s my focus.
Are there any other designers that you get excited about? Designers, yes, a lot – Alexander McQueen. He’s the king. I liked Viktor and Rolf, but at the beginning. A little bit arty, but I like that. I like the mix between art and fashion. It’s interesting. Some young brands from London, I don’t remember the names, but lots of young designers – very creative.
But I think Alexander McQueen is just the one, because it’s everything for me. After fashion week, I spend one night to see all the catwalks that I like. But I was a little bit disappointed by the big brands, because I think the designers always do the same thing. At the beginning, by example, Gucci was ‘wow’ – yes, glitter, embroidery, and so on. But then it’s the same thing every year and season. The same thing with Dior. It’s why I like the new designers in London because it’s ‘wow!’. That’s why I liked Alexander McQueen, because it was changing every year. There was a signature and the spirit, but it was always creative and always a surprise.
Who’s your favourite musician?
It’s really difficult to say – too many! I’m a huge fan of Marc Bolan of T-Rex. And The Beatles, because I was raised with The Beatles in my ears. Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Neil Young too when I’m chilling. It depends on the mood!
Is there any musician or band you’d still like to see live?
Yes! I’m following Fat White Family. It’s a UK band.
Is there a band whose t-shirts you prefer?
No – but it depends, I have some bands that I don’t want to work with! Emo bands, bands that are too cute, boy bands – old boy bands can be interesting because it’s a little bit kitsch, but recent ones, no. And mainstream music. I like to be a little bit particular and innovative.
What would you be if you weren’t a designer?
A singer in a rock and roll band! (laughs)
Where can we find you online?
I have my website and shop online – http://www.nathaliecoste.uk