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For our exclusive interview with singer and actress Melissa Mars, we asked French menswear designer Marc-Antoine Barrois to dress her in some of his designs. He personally selected a black tuxedo jacket with matching pants, paired with an oversize white shirt and accessorized with an exclusive tie from his collection. Thanks to the limitless versatility of the quintessential suit, his classic designs can be worn by women as well. Playing the masculine against the feminine, Melissa looked stunning! This self-taught fashion designer is known for his impeccable handmade designs made from luxurious high quality fabrics. He was also asked to design a special selection of exclusive neckties for the Louvre, Museum of Orsay and the Palace of Versailles. We decided to talk to Marc-Antoine to find out more about him, and to learn more about his Paris-based eponymous fashion label.

How did you get into fashion design?

I come from the city of Lille in northern France. I grew up in an area where the textile industry was huge in the early 20th century. Both my grandfathers and great-grandfathers were in the textile business and when I was a kid I used to visit the textile factories. I even earned my first spending money by helping them! I didn’t learn fashion design in a formal setting, but my mother taught me sewing and pattern making. In the meantime I was taking fine arts classes in the evening. From there I was lucky enough to work with masters such as Dominique Sirop, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Jean-Claude Jitrois. In my job I keep learning everyday. There is not a point where you know fashion design. You always try to do your best!

Tell us a bit about the Marc-Antoine Barrois brand.

I aim to offer for men what women already have in the world of haute couture. Through doing couture for men, making unique pieces handcrafted with traditional knowhow, I ended up doing women’s tuxedos as well. I started designing couture for men in 2005 after working with Dominique Sirop. I wanted to do men’s haute couture on my own but I must admit that it was very experimental at that time. After a few collections on my own, I started working with Jean-Paul Gaultier at Hermès and then later I worked at Jitrois. During this time I stopped designing for my own brand. In 2009 I started designing couture for men again, after a friend and I decided to create a “Maison de Couture” together. Although we are not working together anymore, we recreated mens fashion in a much more mature and elegant way, giving the right meaning to “Haute Couture for Men”. I try to do pieces inspired by the elegance of past to make a very contemporary design.

What type of fabrics do you use to create your garments?

I mostly use virgin wool (super 150’s and above) but also cashmere, silk,  leather or fur. I like to mix materials and pay great attention to the details. That for me is what makes a garment special. Sometimes when I know a client very well, I will add a secret pocket inside a garment with a personal touch – once it was a small rabbit for a rabbit collector.

Marc-Antoine_Barrois_Style_Quotidien_Olivier_Rieu

Fashion Designer Marc-Antoine Barrois (photo by Olivier Rieu)

Menswear as women’s wear has been fashionable since the 1940’s. How can a woman wear your pieces?

As she feels it. I design for men but when a woman adopts one of my designs that was initially created for a man, I will make it to her measure. But who has never seen their girlfriend taking one of their shirts from their closet? I think it is so sexy! I also love women wearing a man’s winter jacket – it’s as if she was in the arms of her man, just by wearing his coat.

Tell us about the pieces you selected for Melissa Mars.

Melissa is poetic and rock ’n roll at the same time so I choose a tuxedo jacket and pants made just for her. Then I mixed in an oversize white shirt that she could have stolen from one of her back-up musicians. I accessorized her with a Montesquiou scarf-tie as a dandy accessory. I designed this exclusive scarf for the Museum of Orsay’s “Fashion and Impressionism” exhibition, and it works perfectly as a nod to Melissa’s romanticism.

Can you tell us about your special neck tie collection?

I was invited to design a necktie collection for the Louvre and Orsay museums as well as for the Versailles Palace. I created elegant motifs inspired by the graphic pyramids of the Louvre, the ceiling of Orsay and the pavement of Versailles. These exclusive neckties were made in France from silk jacquard fabric that was woven near Lyon. (Buy them here.)

How can someone make a basic black suit stand out from the crowd?

Attention to detail makes any suit special, even a classic black one.

What inspires you when you are creating your designs?

Mostly my imagination and dreams, but also images of past elegance and observation of today’s street looks. I grew up dreaming, curious about what treasures I could find in my grandparents’ old attic. I spent my vacations going through this old attic and was reprimanded because I ended up covered in dust! Today I continue to seek inspiration in an old library in the basement of the Louvre. I draw most of my designs while sitting at a café in Paris and that keeps me in touch with today’s fashion as I observe people walking by. I like to think that this mix of perspectives will become the fashion of tomorrow.

What’s next for your brand?

New designs and new couture collections. I’ll also be launching a bridal design service that offers a one-of-a-kind patterns for the bridal party’s ties, ascots, pocket squares and accessories to make a wedding unique. I think it is really innovative when people want to personalize their weddings. I did a wedding once for a mathematician who married a philosopher and I designed a pattern mixing the words of her favorite quote with numbers from a special equation. All of their parents and best friends were wearing the same elegant tie, and as they keep it as a souvenir one day they will say “Hey Mike, I gave a big conference today, and I was thinking of you while I was wearing you’re wedding tie”. I like to be part of those moments. The idea came to me after I designed a special pattern for the ties at my sister’s wedding, and soon afterward I was asked to design ties for other events.

Click here for more information about Marc-Antoine Barrois.