It’s September in New York, just after Labor Day, and Nicolas Di Felice, artistic director of Courrèges, is putting the finishing touches to the French house’s new store in the city. (This is the second; the first shuttered 38 years ago.) It’s in SoHo, and it’s all space-age white, of course, inspired by Courrèges’s original rue François 1er boutique in Paris, which Di Felice recently had renovated. After launching his couture maison in 1961, André Courrèges virtually invented the futuristic grooviness of the ’60s with his gleaming vinyl jackets and we-have-liftoff go-go boots. Yet as Di Felice, 39—an animated and garrulous figure, quick to laugh and refreshingly devoid of pretension—has reimagined the Courrèges legacy since joining the house in 2020, there’s been plenty of himself in the mix too. Those spacious, ever-so-slightly off-kilter mirrored changing rooms, for instance: They’re based on Palladium, a nightclub that Di Felice frequented in his native Belgium, before life in Paris—and working for Nicolas Ghesquière at, first, Balenciaga and then Louis Vuitton—beckoned.
“The challenge was to find the right balance between the blanc heritage and something welcoming,” he says of the store environment, which he worked on with Bernard Dubois, an old friend and fellow student at La Cambre, the Brussels art school that is also the alma mater of Anthony Vaccarello and Olivier Theyskens. “Courrèges stores are always these white spaces, and I am really obsessed with the white—but it’s not the most friendly.” Di Felice’s solution was those fitting rooms, but also benches where anyone dropping by the store could sit and hang out. Adding warmth and intimacy and realness has been the hallmark of his reinvention of Courrèges, which has become distinctly cool, yes, but never cold.
“It’s more about style than just a look,” Di Felice says, describing the house’s very particular aesthetic legacy. “What I love about Courrèges is that you can wear the total look, but I’ve focused on creating things that you can mix it with. This leather shirt, for instance,” he says, gesturing to one hanging in the new store. “I love it with jeans as much as with leather head-to-toe. I’m obsessed with workwear as much as couture,” he continues. “It’s another kind of perfection: Everything has to be done in the right materials, and with the right details.”
Proving his point, hanging alongside those instantly recognizable Reedition jackets and miniskirts in the house-classic vinyl (though today it’s a fabric made in a far more environmentally minded manner, with 70 percent of the urethane derived from vegetables) are flared carpenter pants in crisp Japanese polyester and graphic rib knits. Something else Di Felice has been obsessed with: the fact that much of what André Courrèges created for women happened in an era when emancipation was being eagerly sought and fought for. “That’s a real subject with his work, it’s important,” Di Felice says. “He really created to let women feel more free.”
A few weeks later, in Paris, it’s clear that Di Felice still has that uppermost in his mind for his spring 2023 collection, which fuses the house signatures with scuba, surf—and the street: There’s a short dress that looks as if it’s been made out of coral (actually, soft-to-the-touch silicon), jackets in durable cotton drill worn as oversized shirts, crystal-embroidered faded denim, and a series of sinuous tops and dresses based on a 1974 design Di Felice found in the archives, swapping the original’s spiraling zippers in favor of buttons.
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