On May 11, Paris officially began to ease its lockdown restrictions after several weeks of mandated quarantine to stop the spread of COVID-19. Many of the city's flagship boutiques and department stores were among the first to reopen their doors, with lines forming outsides places like Louis Vuitton and Zara on day one. (Overall foot traffic remained slow and below average.)
For designers who have been working from home this whole time, the chance to finally reunite with their staff in the studio was a moment worth waiting for. "It still doesn't feel normal, but activity is starting back," said Christelle Kocher, founder of couture-meets-streetwear label Koché. "[It] was really a happy moment for me to be back with my team and to connect with them, to feel the energy and to be together."
After walking to her studio, she hailed a cab and stopped by Chanel in the center of Paris. "I went to Chanel for the first time in two months," said the 41-year-old. "I asked my taxi to drop me not in front of the door, but a bit further so that I could walk and get a bit of life"
Kocher also paid a visit to Maison Lemarié, the atelier of feather specialists where she also works as artistic director, and caught up with Virginie Viard, the creative director of Chanel. (Lemarié provides couture-level feathers and embroideries for many of Chanel's collections.)
With the lockdown lifted, Kocher and her team are busy working on her brand's next collection, with plans to present it at the end of June or early July in a yet-to-be-decided format. She adds that Renzo Rosso's OTB Group (the Italian fashion firm which owns Diesel, Marni and Maison Margiela) is building a platform for a digital showroom to produce and sell her clothes.
"I think we had to adapt a lot," she says of how she navigated the work restrictions. "When you have an independent brand like me, you need to be very reactive and access the freedom. Sometimes it's a weakness and sometimes it's a triumph."
Koché Fall 2020
Kocher has had a career-defining 12 months, having won the prestigious ANDAM Grand Prize last year — which included a 250,000 euro grant and a mentorship from Rosso — and designed a special collection for Emilio Pucci in February. No doubt her past experience working for brands like Bottega Veneta, Giorgio Armani and Dries van Noten has served her well in this blossoming chapter of her life.
Now that work life can resume in Paris, Kocher is contemplating the next move for her brand as the industry faces the possibility of no shows in the near future. "Personally, I love the emotional aspect of physical shows but there's also new opportunities out there with the digital format," she says. "It's not going to be the same. We're a bit sad, but we're going to find new ways to be connected, to do fashion and to be creative. That's the most important thing."