Interview with Hugo Fontain of FRATER Paris
Frater, the Latin word for ‘brother,’ is not your average name for a women’s wear line, but FRATER Paris not your average fashion brand. When designer Hugo Fontaine laid the foundation for what is now one of the most exciting new European labels, he decided it would be built upon the values of brotherhood: trust and transparency. Produced exclusively in France, FRATER Paris supports local factories and seeks to marry ethical business practices with innovative design. Fontaine’s modern aesthetic draws inspiration from his love of architecture, which lays bare the bones of great design: beauty, simplicity, and functionality. Together, Plan de Ville and Fontaine go back to the blueprints to discuss elements of style. – Allison Taylor
You launched FRATER in 2013 as a line of wearable avant-garde fashion. What inspired you to do this?
The concept for FRATER began in 2014 with the ambition to create a new aesthetic; a symbol of modernity, adapted to our contemporary generation. In addition to the brightness of a strong design, I wanted to integrate more human values into FRATER ’s DNA than the typical fashion brand.
Tell me about your early experiences as a designer. How has that experience culminated in the FRATER label today?
I grew up with a mother who was closely involved in the fashion scene, and this environment taught me a lot about fashion and creativity in general. I continued my studies in fashion and design in Paris and New York, with formative work experiences at Max Mara and IRO. My most important experiences took place during the large time spent at the designer’s shops with my mother. I learned by listening to the real fashion needs of women, and through understanding how they felt.
Avant-garde fashion is fascinating because it walks a tight line between form and concept; in many ways it is closely related to art and sculpture. Are you influenced by art or architecture?
From Scandinavian furniture designers to the unique architecture realizations of Zaha Hadid, architecture and design are my richest inspirations. Architecture reveals the main elements of good design because it is functional, simple, and beautiful.
FRATER is a Latin word that translates to “brother” or “brotherhood.” How do you feel your collection embodies this concept?
Frater comes from the Latin language and yes, it means brother in a broader sense of positive value. A brother is one in whom you can trust. The brand shares that same philosophy and introduces transparency into fashion.
What are some of your favorite subjects to explore while developing a collection?
One of the main themes in my collections is the exploration of new shapes, always in a modern way. I also like to play with contrast and to join seemingly inappropriate elements to achieve a whole new balance.
What was the inspiration for your Spring/Summer 2016 collection?
For the Spring/Summer collection, I wanted to accentuate FRATER’s eccentricity, because this is how I perceive summertime. It’s a time of fun and carefree-ness. I was also inspired by the idea of woman as an elegant superhero, and drew inspiration from my time in Hong Kong.
Who is the FRATER woman?
The Frater woman is assertive, independent, remarkable, educated, and cool.
Tell me about your first sales season for FRATER. What did you find challenging? Rewarding?
The first sale season was very motivating because we received so much encouragement. As with every beginning, the strongest value was the interest shown for our concept and realization. I have especially appreciated the way people note the high quality of materials and design, which are practical and innovative at the same time.
What are some challenges that you face in your business? How have these challenges evolved in the last year? Two years?
The initial challenge was to express FRATER’s aesthetic clearly; to make it a significant, original, and unique part of a whole universe. We wanted to present something different from what is already in the market. Finding the right people to work with in the industry, like suppliers and factories, was a challenge. By selecting only French factories, we ensure that the quality is excellent and that the work is fair for everyone.
What motivates you as a designer?
I am driven by the desire to reveal new possibilities for each woman, and to make her feel more confident. To introduce a new kind of femininity that is advanced and desirable.If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring fashion designers and fashion students, what would it be?
Being a fashion designer is much more technical and meticulous than abstract or glamorous. Don’t misunderstand the skills that are required in order to be successful.
What’s next for FRATER?
We want to develop more visual elements that define our brand, and continue our aesthetic evolution. We hope that FRATER will soon reach a wider audience through selective retailers on every continent. And most importantly, we want to make our individual voice heard.