Antonin Tron, the designer behind last year’s ANDAM First Collections-winning label Atlein, now a finalist for this year’s LVMH Prize, may not be a big surfer—“I wish!” he says, laughing—but there’s no denying the influence of the sport, and its aquatic environment, on him. “I love anything that’s connected to the ocean,” he says. “Surfing is something that’s important for me, but I also like to consider everything that’s around it—the sense of freedom, the contact with the elements.”
Tron is a born-and-bred Parisian, but he feels most at home near the water on France’s Atlantic coast. As a child, his parents would take him there for vacation; today, he still returns there to get away from the city. Its imprint is felt not so much in his materials—so far, no neoprene—but more in the sentiment of his designs, which, though elegant, are also liberating in a way that not enough fashion is today. He doesn’t design for a mannequin to look pretty; he designs for real women who need to get from point A to point B. “I like the idea of a certain elegance and refinement,” he says, “but I’m trying to balance this with something where you’re free to ride your bike, free to get your keys, free to move.”
His pragmatism is almost surprising, considering his introduction to fashion: He originally wanted to study modern literature or fine art, but then discovered the work of Belgians such as Martin Margiela and Raf Simons and their equally intellectual Japanese counterparts (Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, et al.). “It was fashion as a form of controlled expression before anything else,” he says. Lured to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, his career in fashion then led him through paths at Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, and Balenciaga under Nicolas Ghesquière and Alexander Wang; he still consults part-time for Demna Gvasalia today.
Much of Tron’s work centers on jersey—a fabric he favors for its stretch and movement—sourced from an independent, family-owned factory in France. His début collection last March featured dresses that skimmed the feminine form with minimalist, architectural lines. Following his ANDAM prize win in July—and the money that came with it—he expanded his Spring 2017 collection to include high-waisted cigarette trousers and form-flattering tops. The focus, however, was still on those fluid dresses. This time they came in optimistic, organic hues that ranged from sky blue to dusty brown and were sewn with contrasting textures that alluded to the smashed foam sculptures of the artist John Chamberlain. “I wanted something quite natural, quite open,” Tron says. The results were sleek, cerebral, and elegant; it doesn’t take a genius to realize why, only two collections in, he’s been picked up by retailers such as The Line and Bergdorf Goodman.
There are hints of Ghesquière’s sculptural tendencies in Tron’s æsthetic, but more importantly, his experience at the big houses taught him business—or at least how to be realistic. Product lies at the heart of what he does, but, he says, “One of the reasons I have to be so focused on the product and what sells is because if we don’t sell one season, it’s over. I don’t go to the next season.” When asked about the future of Atlein, he sits on it for a while, before taking a stab: “What I want to do is to build really good product, something really luxurious, and a strong fashion house,” he says. He knows it won’t be easy. “Every day is a challenge!” he says when asked what’s been the most difficult part of his path so far, as if to say, Where do you want me to start? “I mean it’s the same for everybody, unless you have shitloads of money. But anyway, you know what? I founded it and I put it on myself to do this company.”
For more information, please visit Atlein.com.
Hair by Jean-Baptiste Santens at Capsule Agence. Makeup by Ossiel Ramos. Model: Radhika Nair at Marilyn Agency. Photographer’s assistant: Julien Dauvillier.