Thursday, August 2, 2018

Defying expectations and honouring the unknown | An interview with Nicole Marèt of THE ORDER

First of all, who is Nicole Maret?

If I had to choose three words, Nicole Maret would be sanguine, tenacious and excessive. As a 90s-beach wave blonde with no tattoos who has been told she smiles in her sleep, I’m a bit of an aberration from whom you might expect to power a jet-black, delicately macabre clothing line. I’ve preferred form to function since I discovered leopard-print bandaids at age 5, and at 33 I love nothing more than to dramatize and decorate the human body... especially by applying hundreds of black safety pins to seams that are perfectly secure.

I have a boundless collection of red lipsticks and Vans, I adore magic tricks and will stop at nothing to translate the non-sequitur concepts of my mind into my conceptually-driven clothing line, which is called THE ORDER.

How did you first get involved in the fashion industry?

I’ve always had a penchant for things that don’t exist, from the ability to stop time to zero-calorie cheese...and, most significantly, a highly specific wardrobe that no existing clothing line seemed to offer. What began as cutting and re-assembling leggings as a child transitioned into spending more time making Halloween costumes than writing term papers as a college student, and eventually became the reason I was always late to my graphic design job. I realized that finding the perfect outfit had somehow become paramount to getting a paycheck, and decided to re-align my focus toward something I genuinely loved. I began working at Agent Provocateur [AP] as a shop girl, which was my first foray in to retail... and the beginning of the end of my collection of Target lingerie.

What lead to the creation and eventual birth of THEORDER?

While working at AP, I began clandestinely assembling what would emerge as THE ORDER nine months later. I wanted to launch the line without expectations developing throughout the process, so I worked almost completely in secret until the first collection was ready. I had formulated the line’s concept prior to being hired, but working with luxury lingerie on a daily basis helped solidify the aesthetic. I loved the way AP highlighted lingerie in the context of an outfit rather than something that should be hidden underneath, and this became a pivotal aspect of how I design.

The result was a synthesis of my slightly obscure style, fused with elements of costume and graphic design. This yielded a powerfully-branded umbrella under which I can create garments that are not required to fit within a specific category, which ultimately became THE ORDER as it is today.

For those who don't know about THE ORDER how would you describe it?

THE ORDER is known for jet-black, made-to-order, goth-glam separates that appeal to an unexpectedly wide range of women: my customers include everything from artists, stylists and musicians to real-estate brokers, lawyers and medical professionals. Even my mom wears it...and she does so beautifully. My favorite pieces to create usually fall in the lingerie realm, but each collection usually includes a series of bodysuits, sheer pants, raw- edged leather wraps and crop tops with hundreds of sable safety pins sprinkled throughout.

What is the ethos behind THE ORDER?

THE ORDER is premised on honoring the unknown and on the defiance of expectations. Each collection is bound to the next by a personal narrative that perpetuates these notions, with a deep connection to my own contradictory nature. A positive person who is happy almost all of the time, I also possess a fascination with the darker elements of life- I love that these things don’t typically coincide, and have curated my life in a way that perpetuates that divergence. This is the driving force behind THE ORDER, and something I’m incredibly proud of: each piece is created with specific intention, and is designed not to be typecast into the expected “dark” context: despite its visual and conceptual flirtation with the macabre, the line is truly for every woman.

How do you culminate the ideas and pick the final pieces for each Collection? Can you explain that process?

There really is no process or recipe- it’s very instinctual, and it’s “off” just as often as it’s “on.” There have been pieces I’ve spent months developing (fabric, fit, drape, etc.) that have never sold, and pieces that I’ve thrown in last-minute that have been the most-loved from one season to the next.

THE ORDER has a very subtle, minimalist and feminine look and feel about it. Where do you find your inspiration? And how important is the use of materials in the THE ORDER design?

Translating my inspiration into a collection of garments is somewhat alchemical. I work backwards, by beginning with a conceptual approach to something I feel strongly about. I design the garments before I’ve fully developed the story, and my sketches often contain more words than images. I generally know exactly what I want to achieve- the challenge is just how to achieve it in the context of the story I desire to tell.

Materials and color are critical- black comes in a multitude of shades and opacities, so each collection is monogamous in color but promiscuous in depth. Sheer, delicate fabrics like silk chiffon or glissinette work so well in contrast with more robust textures like leather or vinyl, ultimately lending themselves to an aesthetic that treads the line between feminine and fierce.

Are there any musicians, celebrities etc. that you have had the pleasure of dressing or that you would love to work with?

Luna Shadows has performed in a few of my pieces, and Dawn Richard and Bella Thorne have both worn some lingerie for Complex Magazine and Paper Magazine, respectively! I’d love to dress Zola Jesus or Kyla LaGrange, and I’d be lying to everyone if I didn’t say I’d love to see Lady Gaga in THE ORDER as well.

Where do you draw a lot of your own personal style from? Do you have any of your own style icons?

I have dozens of style icons, but I’m much better at admiring them than emulating them. My own style is generally layers of black in various textures and opacities, with the occasional sequin bralette or champagne-colored silk dress thrown in. I NEVER leave the house without red lipstick, and if I had endless resources I’d probably spend it all on Alexander Wang shoes and Di$count Univer$e.

Since its inception in 2013 THE ORDER has proven itself as a stayer in the independent Fashion market. What challenges and experiences have you encountered and what’s different today than back in 2013?

As an independent business and a one-woman operation, I find myself perpetually explaining that THE ORDER is a “constant experiment”- there are no proven recipes for success. The driving force behind the company is the exploration of the unknown, which continuously re-surfaces both in the creation of new garments and the ever-evolving and ever-experimental business of fashion. Nothing is ever definitive.

I love the craft of clothing construction itself, but as an extreme perfectionist, I rarely let anything out of my own hands. This creates a challenge with regard to efficiency, and puts a strain on progression and creativity- every time I stop working on something new to fill an order, I fall into the purgatory between the satisfaction of creating something someone loves, and the stress of spending time on something I’ve already made a dozen times.

I also struggle with the eternal question of art versus business: I perpetually tread the line between creating what I love versus what will sell, trying not to go too far in either direction and lose authenticity. My intuition has been my guide, but the further I go, the more I learn what people desire- and as my competition increases, this becomes increasingly difficult. The advice I always receive is to “trust myself,” which is simultaneously visceral and intellectual.

What keeps you going and maintains your passion to keep THE ORDER thriving in a world where it’s becoming harder and harder to avoid “fast fashion”?

I’ve heard people announce right in front of me that they could find “the same thing” on Amazon or at Zara, which is both disheartening and honestly insulting. I’m so proud of the fact that every single piece is made here in Chicago, 85% of the time by my hands and occasionally by the help of a few extra sets that are more than fairly compensated. There is such a growing lack of appreciation for items made to order in a world where wardrobes exist only long enough to take photos on Instagram. At times it forces me to question the plausibility of continued success, but it also reignites my tenacity in the context of doing what I love for a reason I strongly believe in.

Are there any projects you are working on currently you can tell us about?

AW18 is will be launching in October! The collection is called Antidote, and is a conceptual dissent to our pixel-governed social economy. Myriad black textures abound punctuated by a few white items, as well as a potpourri of safety pins, glitter and vinyl.

SS19 is also in the works, which is going to be a slight departure from THE ORDER as we know it...but that’s all I can say at the moment.