How Many Ways Can You Wear a T-Shirt?

The answer to the above question is: many. Especially when put in the hands of Olivier Saillard, the curator-turned-artistic-and-image-director of the 1891-founded heritage JM Weston shoe brand. It turns out he can do more than just shoes; he does T-shirts, too, and it’s amazing what you can do with them. 

Olivier Saillard and Axelle Doue at the Moda Provera presentation in Paris. Photo: Giovanni Giannoni / Courtesy of PR.

In a perfectly apt intimate setting during couture fashion week, Saillard revealed the fruits of an ongoing project that had been bubbling quietly for some time in the background. He has been buying T-shirts en masse for almost a year. There’s been nothing special about them and, as he confessed, sometimes the shipping cost even beat that of the price of the garment itself. But it was all for one purpose. The art of the drape. The art of taking one thing and making it something entirely else, appropriately bringing couture to daily life. Pertinent in a week spent mostly chasing other people’s fantasy dreams.

Because a T-shirt, we all have those. Big ones, little ones, colourful ones, and favourite ones. “Moda Povera,” as it is called, is all of these – and, according to Saillard, “probably the least expensive collection in a long time.” He joined forces with Madame Grès seamstress Martine Lenoir and model Axelle Doue, taking the art of the drape to create high fashion in an accessible way: in white and pink and black and orange or maroon, what was once >just a T-shirt< was transformed. 

Axelle Doue at the Moda Provera presentation in Paris. Photo: Giovanni Giannoni / Courtesy of PR.

Those intricate pleats and gathers, ruching and turns to create wings, new necklines, sleeves. A swag here and it’s a wrap top; a tie at the back and it’s now super sexy and it’s still a T-shirt. But it hugs the body just right, tucks in just so in a way that makes you wonder where in the heck that T-shirt is from that this person is wearing. Pockets and caped backs, double layers so that two colours work together and enable even more to play with; there were endless options of clever (actual) twists to make this a wonderful way to explore couture – because it is ultimately all about the technique. And three numbered clutch bags were perfectly in-keeping with this theme, harking back as they did to the days when couture collections were presented with numbered cards so clients knew what it was they wanted to purchase. 

Here, the idea was simple and clever, which is so often the way. And the T-shirt was the perfect blank canvas with which to show off a skill that here became a super skill.