The Brand Built on Antique French Fabrics
Paris Fashion Week with Samuel Snider
On a quiet side street in the middle of the trendy Le Marais district of Paris, Samuel Snider presented its Spring 2019 collection during the city’s fashion week this fall. Upon entering the small, candid exhibition space, the viewer could already grasp a sense of the brand’s bond with the earth.
Two grey clothing racks stood against the white walls on either side of the narrow room. On the left hung shades of blue and black, and on the right hung garments of beige. The decor comprised of a tall elmwood shelf, two glass jars of dried flowers and grasses, and a wooden table with some stools.
Everything was simple, and the spotlight was on Snider’s creations–the sturdy, yet soft texture of the linen, the saturation of the blues and blacks, and the individual character of each garment.
Snider, who graduated from Parsons School of Design in 2014, creates his workwear-style designs with antique French linen from the 19th century. He cuts from the fabric sheet panels–each one-of-a-kind–and renders pieces that are at once timeless, personal, sophisticated and modest.
“What differentiates the antique fabric from linen today is the way that it’s woven and the technique of hand weaving on a handloom,” Snider said. “It has a tighter weave and a more substantial hand to it than any kind of linen that you can find today. The antique French linen is really the basis–the starting point–of our collection.”
Marking his debut in fall 2017 with his first collection, Snider has shown in Paris Fashion Week every season since, with this time being his third. The New York-based brand, known for its jackets, coats and pants, experimented in its most recent collection by adding more shirts and tunics. Snider said this proved “partly successful,” but clients, old and new, continued to be especially attracted to the signature pieces.
The showroom also took on a new focus this time. Since previous spaces had felt too big for the brand’s small collection, Snider opted for a more intimate space to bring the clothes closer together and to create a warmer environment for viewers. He collaborated with the designers at Brooklyn’s HomeStories, who helped source furniture from Europe. Snider also brought with him some personal items from his studio in New York, such as balls of yarn he had previously purchased in France.
“We tried to create as much of the environment of our studio in New York as we could in Paris this time,” Snider said. “It’s hard being designers in New York showing in Paris because you really want to invite people into your space. But if you’re renting all of your furniture, you really are a little bit limited. So this time it was nice it worked out.”
Showing in Paris has always been a necessity for the brand, as many of its international clients do not attend fashion week in New York. But France is also significant to the brand as it is, in a sense, where it originates.
Snider was introduced to the fabric he uses today by Sharon and Paul Mrozinski, who he met in their store in Maine that deals in antique French textiles. They offered for him to visit them in their home in Provence for half the year, and to introduce him to the places they buy antique linen. Some months later, Snider flew to the south of France and discovered the material he needed for his line. Snider said he continues to visit and stay with the Mrozinski’s in Provence to this day.
Natural dyer, Cara Piazza, has also been an essential part of the brand–adding rich color to the collections using all organically sourced ingredients. For the blues, she uses indigo grown on a Tennessee farm. For the shades of black, she uses a mix of logwood, walnut, chestnut and iron depending on the season.
“I wanted to work with him because I feel like his attention to detail and craftsmanship is so high and so luxury,” Piazza said. “It’s a great company to be a part of, because these aren’t pieces that are supposed to get thrown away. You’re supposed to buy one of these and keep it in your family forever.”
Samuel Snider’s use of organically-sourced materials for coloring, its refrain from fabric production through the reuse of antique linen, and its recent studio shift towards more in-house sampling all point toward a more transparent, hands-on practice that manifests itself in the quality of the products.
“Why would I take these beautiful antique fabrics if I wanted to do garment dying and dip them into chemicals? It just felt so counterintuitive,” Snider said. “I wanted to bring the collection back to the roots of antique french textiles and how can we, in the 21st century, use these techniques in a modern way.”