Photos at Erik Halley’s studio in Paris by Stephan Moskovic
Still life photos courtesy of Erik Halley
Laetitia Casta at Cannes wearing Dior
Photo by Francois Durand / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty
Inspired by the surrealist movie “Orphée” by Jean Cocteau, a tribute to the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli,
Erik had composed the feather garment as a one of a kind, iconic symbol of a memorable era of cinema
on the delicate shoulders of a talented actress of the new generation.
When did you get started on this journey?
I started in ’94, a long time ago! I started doing jewelry on my own with feathers. I did a little collection and I was selling it in a few shops. I went to London to see an agent and I got introduced to Isabella Blow. She then introduced me to Lucinda Chambers of British Vogue, Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Julien Macdonald – all in one day. When I got back to Paris Julien Macdonald, who was doing all the knitwear for Chanel, introduced me to Karl and I started working with them as well.
My own accessories started to sell very well, I began to be sold in 50 shops worldwide, from Brazil to Japan, Hong Kong; a lot in London as well, Italy, Spain. We did that for 12 years, every season doing accessories for the shows and making our own collection. It was all the time because you have couture and prêt-à-porter – it was nonstop. After a while I decided to stop designing a collection for shops. It was too much and I also had gotten many interesting proposals for contracts to design stuff for other companies. I still do a little collection for myself, because customers still want to buy my stuff, but otherwise I work solely on special projects. We still design jewelry for companies, making special things for the shows, but we do when it is a big project. When it is just to make one hat or something the investment isn’t necessarily worth it, but to do something on a larger scale is interesting.
What’s the process when making one of your masks?
For the masks we take each person’s facial shape and get their faces printed. Sometimes we do general shapes, but we also do customs which are personal and very luxurious. We did a mask of Madonna for the MDNA tour and for the Superbowl as well. In addition to those large clients we also do orders all the time for private customers.
We typically take one week to make a mask, five days in a row for something simple and longer if we do something extra like the deer horns. The horns are actually fake, we design them and make them because real ones are too heavy to wear.
Do you sketch beforehand?
I just start with an idea and then I just make it, because if you sketch something and you start you’re never going to make it as good as that initial sketch. If you know the technical caliber of the fabric – with metal you know what can be done, with a plastic there are certain things that can be done – the material has an impact on your technique and what you do creatively.
Tell me about this deer mask!
This I made for Christmas because I organized a little sale in some trendy bookstores and I said that I’m going to do a photo shoot with people and friends. We did 3 deer masks and took pictures of all the people who passed by and tried it on. People liked it, they’d seen the mask on the Internet but never got to try it on for themselves – it actually led to a lot of orders.
What is that color – almost a gold?
It’s opaline grey but it looks a bit goldish in this light – that effect takes a while to create. This takes almost 10 days of working.
Do you and your team do all this by yourselves?
It’s just the three of us now but sometimes we are more, there are many people working outside, platers and people doing different parts of the process. I don’t have a big company, but I don’t want to because I want to be free and open to do different things.
He’s doing all the prototypes for soldiering and as soon as the prototype is made we send it out to the atelier and then they produce them for us.
When you’re working with a musician or a performer, how is it different than working with a brand?
Usually they let me do what I like, but sometimes they come with their concept that they are working with. With Madonna we had known each other for a time before and she knew our work. Artists like to know they can trust us for creativity and they know we’ll do something very special.
Buggs / Feather bug earring worn by Kylie Minogue
What would you say are your signature pieces?
There is some jewelry I’ve made in the past that is still selling after all this time; people still want them! The very first feather necklace that I made is still in production. There is a crystal punk bracelet, which is a studded bracelet where we switched the metal studs with crystal studs. Those were very successful at the time and people still buy them. The masks, I’m really crazy about – lately I love the rhino that we’ve done which is something really great for me.
It seems like you’re doing a lot of things all at once.
I have different projects right now. I have a project with one music group where I do all their looks for the stage and work on the concept of the concerts as well. With all the albums they’ve made there is a real story. There are five people in the group and I work with them one by one to do the outfits. We’re not doing a sort of Beatles thing, each person is in character and is very different.
We’re going to launch the online boutique – I don’t know when just yet but we’re going to try that soon. I have other projects too, but I cannot talk about them just yet!
Is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you would like to explore?
There are many things I haven’t done just yet – I’m studying 3D printing because you can do so much out of that. The technology, the machines – the good ones – are very expensive. Now you can do 3D printing, but the quality might not be as nice. You also have to learn how to design in 3D on the computer which takes a lot of time. Doing things by hand is very different and it gives you a sensitivity that you don’t have when you’re sketching something to be 3D printed. It is a learning experience, but it takes new ideas and technology to bring something different into the business.
Sounds like you’re moving outside just fashion.
I started in fashion but now I’ve been able to move into performance, theatrical projects and art, I’m also preparing an exhibition which is more like contemporary art. There are three different people interested in setting up the exhibition but we haven’t finalized things just yet. It will be either at the end of this year or early next year. We’ll do something very special. An art collector has also asked me to make some pieces for him exclusively as he likes my work.
Doing all this makes me very hard to categorize for some people. In business, people often like if you do one thing and only one thing. They don’t know what you’re capable of. When you’re not in a specific category and bring your knowledge into that category it can create something very rich because the way you look at and approach things is different. You have another point of view. We’re in a very conservative time right now and there are a lot of ideas being brought back from the past; it is interesting to come with a new perspective and do something different, something new.