Sylvie Facon is known throughout the world as the designer who tells stories with her dresses. Self-taught, this Arras-born fashion designer creates magnificent, strange and beautiful dresses, unique and magical. Her multifaceted inspiration is drawn in part from her home city. Encounter with an ambassador for Arras, inspired, demanding and passionate.
From the initial sketch down to the very last stitch, Sylvie Facon’s nimble fingers make dresses that seem straight out of a storybook.
“My dresses express harmony emotion. It’s not totally steampunk, not totally fantasy, not totally fairytale, but a little of all of them.”
At the request of a prestigious haute couture school, she had been passing on her know-how to forty or so fashion designers. In a splendid room in the Golestan Palace, a young Iranian woman is wearing a dress in the colors of Arras. On the bodice, paintings depict the Flemish Baroque style buildings on the Grand’Place and the Place des Héros (the House of the 3 Leopards) and the Belfry. In other words, how to export local architecture and history to the four corners of the globe.
“I am increasingly keen on introducing the world to the city I love; this urge for advocacy is my common thread,” explains the fashion designer, who only really set up independently 10 years ago, after a 30-year first career in the social field.
It is a throng of multiple inspirations, not limited to the bodice, lace, the Pre-Raphaelite movement, steampunk, nature or even Arras – although it was the trigger because I started out making dresses for local festivals.”
After an acclaimed début exhibition at the Arras Museum of Fine Arts, word of mouth did the rest. Today, she is much sought after to stage catwalk shows and exhibitions near and far: the Chantilly Lace Museum, the Louvre-Lens, the Abbey of Vaucelles (Jardin des Merveilles exhibition in 2018), the Caudry Lace Museum and also in Orléans, Fontainebleau, Bourges etc. Because Sylvie Facon creates much more than mere dresses; they are true works of art.
Pictures were reductive; I wanted to tackle work that was truly visual. That’s how I came to start painting on dresses, which became a base just like canvas. Universal beauty is my essential desire. The creation of something beautiful, pleasing, balanced, harmonious, gentle, luminous, poetic… whether you are English, Russian, French or American, that speaks to everyone. My dresses express harmony, emotion. It’s not totally steampunk, not totally fantasy, not totally fairytale, but a little of all of them. There is something indefinable that touches people deeply.”
Her passion for beautiful materials (silk, lace) is a true manifesto for time-honored and local know-how. “I have a partnership with the lace manufacturer Jean Bracq in Caudry. I’m fascinated by the know-how involved in lace-making, for its quality, its beauty, its colors, its fineness. It deserves to be protected and preserved.
Her famous book dress was born of a friendship with Arnaud Derville of the Grande Librairie d’Arras, the bookshop. “It’s a wonderful place. I was able to choose some fifteen antique books, whose spines and covers form the bodice, then the story continued with a lace from Lyon known as tombé de métier (literally “fallen from the loom”), left raw for its colour.”
It was no fewer than 47 meters of fabric, an absolute splendor. And so was born the telling of the story of Arras in textile. These stories and the meticulous compositions require of Sylvie between 150 and 350 hours of work on each dress.
The violin dress is the fruit of Sylvie’s passion for the steampunk movement. She has literally applied the musical instrument itself onto the front of the bodice.
On the skirt, musical scores create a never-before-seen textile symphony. Arras Cathedral formed the ideal backdrop to show it off to best effect. For the dress encrusted with illustrations of Arras, and featuring a central painting showing a nineteenth century market scene, Sylvie chose the Grand’Place and the Belfry.
Then there’s the Couleur du Temps (Color of Time) series of dresses (featuring sundials, hourglass, clock hands, pearl and silk tulle watches), a homage to the Arras clockmaker Bernard Sénéca; the straw dress is somewhat reminiscent of the agricultural abundance of the plains of Arras; and of course the Art Deco inspired dress in painted and beaded velvet embellished with over embroidered laces.
With almost 45,000 Instagram followers, fans and customers from Singapore to New York, from Los Angeles to Moscow, today Sylvie Facon is known throughout the world. Every one of her posts creates a buzz.
See below for some examples of her work.