On the average Tuesday afternoon, The Strand Bookstore’s usual clientele is school-aged children clutching picture books and trenchcoated NYU professors clumsily juggling leather briefcases with a stack of books. But December 12 wasn’t an average Tuesday; it was the day that emerging French label Koché descended upon the iconic shop for a fashion show.
Designer Christelle Kocher took over the second and third floors of the store, attracting a crowd of dedicated fans—along with a few unassuming bystanders—who took in the pre-fall show that was dotted with obvious references to New York, and slanted with a sporty influence.
“I like to feel the presence of the public and introduce people into my world,” Kocher explained to Observer in the Erotic section of the bookstore, following the show. She reminded us that this isn’t her first time staging a guerilla fashion show; Koché, which has been around since 2014, previously staged runways open to the public at an underground market in Paris and on Harajuku Street in Japan. According to the designer, she enjoys the game of inviting her fans to join in on the fun and seeing if they can guess what’s coming next.
And while other brands merely skim the surface of the athleisure movement, Koché has gone all in by actually partnering with a sports team, the esteemed football club Paris Saint-Germain. Pre-fall marks her second collection with PSG, where the official jerseys were sliced and diced into short-sleeve button downs and patchworked into vibrant tracksuits.
“It’s been really good because I think it really brings a different audience,” Kocher said about her collaboration with PSG, adding that footballer Edinson Cavani will soon be wearing some of her designs. This season she also joined forces with Woolmark, the “global authority on wool” that bankrolls a handful of projects with notable designers, in addition to the prestigious International Woolmark Prize. The Koché pre-fall show featured a whopping 21 pieces made in cooperation with Woolmark, ranging from a coat reworked with a vinyl overlay and studded with crystals to a purposely tattered knit sweater.
“Woolmark this season, on top of PSG, brings a lot of heritage and a lot of quality. They developed some really technical wool and it was quite amazing to find a way to bridge the sportswear with the couture, the tradition of the wool with more casual coolness,” Kocher explained. The designer herself has some background in the couture realm, having graduated from London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins and going on to score plum gigs at Emporio Armani, Chloé, Sonia Rykiel, Dries Van Noten and Bottega Veneta. She then went on to refine her craft as creative director at Maison Lemarié, a specialty atelier owned by Chanel that produces appliqué flowers and feathers for couture garb.
But for this season, New York was at the front of mind for the designer. Aside from including icons of the Statue of Liberty in her designs and winks to Wall Street with wacky colored pinstriped jackets, Kocher also decided to include local New Yorkers in her lineup. On the brand’s Instagram page, she posted a flyer for a casting call and also reached out to a few of her dedicated followers who looked like they might be a good fit for the brand.
“I wanted to be able to represent New York with a mix of culture, like a mix of people with their own kinds of backgrounds,” she explained. The result was a mix of local skater kids, cool girls with hair the color of construction cone orange and SoundCloud rapper Ignoble. They were joined by various models hailing from New York and Paris, plus faces that are regulars on the Koché runways.
For the show’s finale, each model accessorized their outfit with a book found on a shelf at The Strand. Kocher, who is currently reading Russell Banks’ The Darling, did, in fact, make a point on accessorizing your technical garb with a good book. For the year ahead, that’s not such a bad goal to have.