Mansour Badjoko et Martin Liesnard, duo créatif de Mansour Martin
“Clothing is the result of a revolution carried out by individuals.”
Having just celebrated its first birthday, the Mansour Martin brand is firmly anchored in contemporary codes. Clothing made in Europe, an eco-responsable range, and erasing the walls between genders; such are the pillars of Mansour Martin. Behind this label lies the creative duo of Mansour Badjoko and Martin Liesnard, whose ambition is to see their collections bring a ray of sunshine to our wardrobes and a breath of fresh air to fashion. It’s worth pointing out, however, that a garment represents a particular universe and is thought out before the production process even begins. It’s within this perspective that we sat down with the creative duo, aiming to discuss exactly what the artistic creation of a garment represents for them, whether or not it’s unisex, colourful or inspired!
You have two highly complementary profiles. On the one hand, you have Mansour Badjoko, who is more focused on the creative aspect, and Martin Liesnard, who studied fashion and design management. How do you manage the overall artistic direction when you are a duo?
Mansour and I work in tandem on the artistic direction: the creation of the garments, the concepts, the identity of the collections and the brand. Our backgrounds are very different. Mansour studied fashion and I have a more academic background in management. We’ve known each other for over 15 years and we have always shared this common passion for the creation of clothing. In the past, I always worked directly or indirectly on creative projects and developed my artistic sensibility in a self-taught way. The combination of our two different personalities and experiences allows us to broaden our creative perspective and explore areas that we may not be able to tackle on our own, while also benefiting from the respective strengths of each one. We always work together on the thought process behind each step of the creative process: we mix our research and take ideas from each other, while also adding complementary elements from each other. We have transformed our quirks and respective pasts into a true strength. We are incredibly lucky to be able to complete each other on a daily level.
Mansour Martin is a label that also has its pulse on social changes via its garments. How do you decide on the visual identity of your garments?
Beyond fashion, we share a common passion for various universes like architecture, object design, and society’s evolution in urban settings, whether they are energised by innovations or new trends (transportation, the environment, the links between various populations,) or by social movements (LGBTQ+, social transitions). We also share common “pop” references that come from our personal backgrounds and adolescent experiences (music, films, clothing) that make an occasional appearance, or that customise our garments. Finally, we like to explore masculinity as a field of vast possibilities, with a poetic approach that leaves room for the fantasy that many are craving. Naturally, this all allows us to create a precise identity and concept: a brand that addresses men, but also women, who love clothing without worrying about gender, borders or rules, and that respects the environment and our society. The overall graphic universe (especially our logo) is naturally inspired by the worlds of architecture and object design.
Your collections include unisex pieces. How do you think about a garment from this perspective?
Proposing our garments to women came about very naturally. We don’t think much about gender when we design our products. Our idea is to explore masculinity, and this approach quite naturally forces us to explore femininity, but through the lens and codes of masculinity. We believe that we need to stop “genderizing” clothing. This goes along with the necessary opening up of society and the wellbeing of all. You should wear a garment because you like it and not because it was made for a specific type of person. By tapping this dynamic, clothing can participate in its own way in helping to evolve the mentalities and sensibilities of all sorts of people in all sorts of domains and even, who knows, in the respective identities of everyone. Any other approach no longer makes sense nowadays. We go through the technical design of our garments for men and whenever we can, we take the shapes and tweak them if they can be adapted to women.
Does that mean that there is no “Mansour Martin” Man or Woman?
No. There are Mansour Martin MEN and WOMEN. Rather, there are Mansour Martin personalities and individuals. What is essentiel is that the people who wear our clothing chose it because the garment or some detail spoke to their own sensibility. In fact, we encourage our client to mix our garments with pieces from other designers, other brands, other styles or universes, as well as vintage. It would be so much more pleasant to dress like that every morning rather than putting together a precise and uniform look - how boring!
What relationship do you have with the body that you are dressing?
With some of the garments that we design, there is a dynamic of fetishising the body. For example, our favorite suit jacket is made with slits in the back and on the arms. This creates a sensual back-and-forth between the garment, the wearer, and the gaze of others. Ditto for our shorts, as we design the cut and the details while taking into consideration the body / the leg. A pair of shorts that does not play with the skin of the leg, the movement of the body, or the movement of the muscles, is not at all interesting. In fact, the world of dance and movement occupies an important place in our creative process. The morphology of a body, of skin, of hairiness; these are elements that bring soul to a garment.
Mansour Martin pays a lot of attention to materials and their production process (one example being the fact that 85% of the line’s production is done in France): have there been any production constraints that made you reconsider the way you design a garment?
We produce our line in France, Belgium, and Portugal. Some we do with family factories, other parts are produced by independent manufacturers; depending on the models and the quantities needed. This mix changes across collections. 80% of what we propose is eco-responsable: recycled fabrics, organic fabrics, natural treatments, ecologically sound innovations… Obviously this imposed some constraints when we began. We cannot do everything. Yet we don’t really limit our artistic development as such. First, we conceive and draw our ideas and we think through the concept. Then we source possible eco-responsable solutions. If they don’t exist, then we turn toward the most respectful and qualitative solutions (fabrics from France or Italy, or fabrics that are as respectful to the environment and to human beings as possible.)
How does a young brand think about clothing in 2020?
Most important is to do what you love, and with consciousness and respect, both for the environment and the people who live there. After that, a notion of adaptability to our era comes quite naturally.
During confinement, along with four other clothing labels, you created “Utopies Nouvelles” (New Utopias), a collective that allows for “imagining new possibilities” … how can a garment help a society evolve?
Beyond a garment, it is really a brand of clothing that can have an impact on helping society evolve. It would be too pretentious to say that a brand “makes” society evolve, but a brand can hold the role of media: inform, share, and discuss with individuals. It is the person who wears the garment that helps society evolve. It’s the way in which fashion is consumed. It’s a shared effort between brands, designers, and also consumers. We have the power to say no to whatever doesn’t make sense or isn’t aligned with our social evolution. Clothing is but the result of an evolution and a change that takes place first and foremost with individuals.
You now offer a pre-order service: what does that imply in the process of creation?
Do less but do better, and for specific people. We are often in contact with our clients who buy our pieces online. We share with them the different phases of manufacturing. This creates a completely different rapport than when you deliver a ready-made garment that’s been pulled from the stockroom. Everything is more authentic. More human. This also puts the spotlight on the various people who participate in the various phases of manufacturing the garment. The independent tailor who sews a pair of pants in his home, for example. These professions have largely been forgotten and are rarely paid attention to. It’s not only designers who are behind a label.
What does being an Artistic Director of your own label change, in the grand scheme of things?
Freedom, doing what you like. And also the freedom to try something and fail. And the freedom to create a bond and special rapport with the people who wear the garments. When you are taking care of the artistic direction of another brand, there is pressure to respect the existing DNA. The work is different, but must be just as passionate. Finally, there is the freedom to create a bond and special relationship with the people who wear your garments.
Today, between social media and the growing number of labels that are being created, do you think that the profession of Artistic Director in the fashion world is changing?
Yes. At least for us it is. In reality, creation is 20% of our activity. There are four of us working for the brand. We work together on the business development of the band, the production, the marketing, the communication, the digital, the operational organisation, the finance, the legal aspects… finding new partners. It’s a veritable little start-up. During the week, we are entrepreneurs and during the evenings and weekends, we are Artistic Directors :-)
As a brand that seems to be fighting against fast fashion, what do you think about the growing number of collections that are produced each year by designer and big brands?
We believe that every House should take back its independence in terms of the calendars imposed by a business model that seems to be running out of steam, and in which the consumer seems lost in fact. Re-think an organisation that provides more sense and freedom, while also maintaining a solid business strategy. This can be a real conundrum for a young brand like us. But the recent events and awakenings seem to favour a change that is more aligned with the needs of our era, and the evolution of the market. We still need a bit of time to rethink all of this. It will surely be done progressively. There, too, the consumer has a role to play.
Finally, what is the garment that you dream of designing?
A set of looks for a theatre project: opera, theatre or dance. Something very dreamy.