Cut from the right cloth
Artistic Temperament: Lucile Roy
By Faye Fearon
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I’ve always been into art,” shirtmaker Lucile Roy says as we wind up a narrow fight of stairs in the back building of a quiet courtyard in Paris’s 10th arrondissement. “I think it’s impossible to work as a craftsperson without being informed by other kinds of creativity.” She proceeds to open a door to a hidden loft which, it turns out, is overloaded with abstract paintings and beautifully designed furniture. Soothing sounds from French conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier drift through the air, which is laced with tobacco smoke and Chanel No.5. It’s a charming space to be – and quintessentially Parisian.

“This space belongs to Nadine Cadot,” Lucile explains before lifting up a stack of white shirts from a Marcel Breuer Wassily chair and gesturing for me to sit. “She’s an esteemed art collector and close family friend who I spend time with when I come to Paris.” Lucile lives in Bordeaux, but spends one week a month in the capital to meet professional contacts, catch up with friends, and, most importantly, get her fix of Parisian culture. “I like the different kinds of inspiration between Bordeaux and Paris,” she says. “Bordeaux is quiet and close to the sea, so when I’m painting or working with ceramics I feel very connected to nature. Paris, on the other hand, provides energy and engagement with charismatic people, which is so important if you’re creatively inclined.”

Lucile’s own creative inclination is shirtmaking – a passion that runs in her family. “I grew up in a small village called Courley in Deux-Sèvres. My great-grandfather, René Moynaton, founded a shirt workshop there in 1945, which was then passed down through generations from my grandparents to my father.”

Thanks to this rural setting, Lucile’s family business originally focused on hardy workwear, but it wasn’t long before dressier shirt designs started to pass through the atelier.

“I spent so much of my childhood in our family workshop, I naturally grew attached to the sensibilities in its space. The core business was fine men’s shirts, which I loved, but I wanted to write a new chapter of my family history, so I decided to build on the exact same model for the opposite audience: women.”
— Lucile Roy

In the history of shirtmaking, it’s rare to find a business that only makes for female customers. Lucile understands this and by building on the patterns of men’s shirts she deconstructs the conventional expectations and processes of an often patriarchal craft industry. “While my shirts start with a masculine cut and base, it is really important for me to flatter the female silhouette, so little details in the shape are feminine,” she says. On her Capella shirt, a turtleneck-style collar is fastened at the back by a long, wide ribbon. Her Hécat style is finished with exaggerated Musketeer cuffs for a tasteful touch of verve. And for the Lune (Lucile’s personal favourite), a simple silhouette blossoms through voluminous, gathered sleeves.

Each design is subtly different, but what ties them together is their quality and amplitude. “I use sensual materials, most often a balance between muslin and poplin from Thomas Mason, because the skin really responds to delicate textures – and my biggest aim is for a customer to feel comfortable,” Lucile says. “My models are also quite oversized and fall to the middle of the thigh for freedom of movement.”

One shirt takes between three and four weeks to make (a comfortable turnaround time given the adaptation of length and fit for each customer’s request), but Lucile isn’t solely interested in the process of craftsmanship. She’s also fascinated by how each individual woman treats her shirts as a blank canvas. “Because my styles are so simple, there’s room to communicate your own personality, which, for me, is the hallmark of true style. Clothing isn’t credible when you just try to replicate the appearance of someone else.”

She’s right, of course, and this philosophy has also inspired Lucile to push beyond her ‘classic shirtmaking’ comfort zone. “In light of the past year especially, I’ve found that this pandemic has led me to create new designs for summer, primarily led by colours and stripes” she says. “There’s still a foundation of timelessness, but by offering more saturated styles, I want to welcome new customers and bring some life back into our society, as we’ve all been so stripped of it recently.”

It’s a smart business move, and one which is likely to be welcomed by women in search of new, exciting and yet beautifully made garments after a year of comfort-dressing at home. Lucile, however, confesses that she herself will stick to minimalism in her day-to-day style. She credits women like Françoise Hardy, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Fran Lebowitz for encouraging her to keep things simple. “They all dress differently, but a white shirt sits at the crux of their wardrobes, and it brings a real sense of elegance to their strong silhouettes. My long term goal is to be identified as the woman who supplies the perfect white shirt” she says.

Despite our eclectic surroundings in this art-filled apartment, it is in fact the simplicity of Lucile’s shirt that steals the show as we sit together and chat. So evidently, she’s doing something right with design, and it’s no overstatement to say that her aspiration has a good chance of becoming a reality.

 

Book an appointment with Lucile at lucile-roy.com

(Photography by Mike Cornelus)

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