Mansour Martin: it’s two first names … Those of two boys, introduced thanks to a mutual friend fifteen years ago, who decided in 2019 to combine their strength, their experiences and their desire to develop a common vision without borders. With each collection, they offer a modern take on a sophisticated and ‘genderless’ male wardrobe, drawing on their friends and family and the involvement of their favourite artists. Between Brussels and Paris, the designers offer up their fashion with a devotion to social and environmental responsibility. Indeed, anxious to see the survival of artisanal ‘made in Europe’ know-how, the duo aspires to a more ethical future by always remaining in search of new technologies.
What was the journey and the catalyst that led you to launch your brand?
We have shared this common passion for creation since our teenage years. Over time, we have both evolved and developed our professional experiences in fashion. We always thought it would be great to do a project together, to combine our ideas. And then we came to the respective moment in our lives where we had the opportunity to get started. We wanted to challenge ourselves, to give it a go, to start from scratch and to attempt a project from start to finish, with common bases and values. We first thought of a line of eco-responsible shirts. And then gradually, and pushed by our friends and acquaintances, we imagined a more global universe and a complete wardrobe. We wanted to create a brand that draws its resources from eco-responsible solutions and innovations. We studied what was being done in Europe to find partners. Many start-ups are now offering incredible innovations such as recycled textiles made from marine litter and handmade lantbased dyes. And so we got started.
When did you decide to make your first names the eponymous link for your brand?
It happened quite quickly, we wanted something accessible, human, direct and obvious. Our two first names together completely sum up our history and all the richness of our duo. People often think that Mansour Martin is one and the same person. It’s both fun and interesting to imagine who he would be, what his life would be, his story, what he would have to say …
‘ Nos deux prénoms accolés résument complètement notre histoire et toute la richesse de notre duo. ’
In your duo, how do you divide the work?
It’s a ‘ping-pong’ in terms of artistic direction. We really work as a pair, all the time: ideas bounce back from both sides. Each influenced by their own sensibilities, desires, respective references, we exchange a lot and mix everything; we take each other’s ideas and we rework it to arrive at a whole that we had not necessarily imagined at the start. It is very rewarding to work in together. We challenge each other and we fuel each other. It’s an interesting showdown in the overall creation process, with a mix that works well. It is also a business project. For its development, we each have our own roles: production, press, digital, product development… and there are actually three of us behind this duo, with Marie Bernet Auzou, co-founder and general manager, who carries this project with us on a daily basis. We work as a three, always connected, to make it evolve as well as possible.
And how does each new collection develop?
We start with a selection of pieces and mix our desires to create our hybrid wardrobe for the season. Then everyone brings these ideas and inspirations, like a ‘multi-media’ mood board: music, exhibitions, trips that we have recently been on, urrent emotions, works of artists, fashion references and designers that we admire … And little by little the collection takes shape. There are always themes that cut across the brand (our common passions): architecture, the notion of body and mind, urban societal developments. But every story is different.
Installed on both sides of the Franco-Belgian border, do you find that distance is an ‘obstacle’ to creation?
Martin lives in Paris, Mansour lives in Brussels. It’s rather enriching. This allows us to ‘move’, to find ourselves in one or another of the cities, or even elsewhere. We stay in contact every day. It’s actually quite easy. And we are happy to stay connected simultaneously to each of the two cities.
‘ C’est très enrichissant de travailler à deux. On se challenge et on se nourrit. C’est une confrontation intéressante dans la création globale, des mélanges qui fonctionnent bien. ’
Have these two second homes enabled you to develop the brand better?
The company is developing mainly in France. Moreover, the brand is French, based in Paris. However, since our respective lives are located between the two cities, we have the advantage of being able to combine the two networks that we have built over the years. It’s amazing to know so many people in two different cities. And, what’s more, Paris and Brussels are two cities very connected by fashion, in many ways. In addition, we produce all our clothes in France and Belgium, so it is easy for us to meet family manufacturers and independent tailors who manufacture our pieces, working hand in hand.
The theme of your work is ‘the collective’, and you often work with outside artists. Why? How do you select them?
These are usually people we know or follow for their work. They are favourites, friends, acquaintances. The artists get involved halfway through the development of the collection and in general it only concerns a few looks. We re-interpret the themes together, and we mutually come towards a type of work and an approach that we are not used to doing, outside of our comfort zones. It’s an approach that we like a lot because it offers a different point of view on the collection which also forces us to open the creative field and therefore explore new perspectives, it’s very interesting. For Spring-Summer 2021, we got in touch with the painter, stylist, florist and textile designer Aurélien Delahaies. With a common passion for brutalism, we left Aurélien free to re-invent the architectural plans that we had imagined for a set of totally painted pieces, directly on the canvas of the garment; meticulous work, with a brush, designed together for exceptional pieces.
‘ Nous avons une réalité économique qui fait que nous faisons les choses avec prudence. Donc pas un défilé, plutôt un format hybride pour commencer. ’
Are these the only collaborations within the brand?
We are fortunate to be as surrounded and supported as we are. For an ‘organic’ project like Mansour Martin, this is vital. Without the notion of ‘the clan, the collective’, launching a project like ours is almost impossible. For example, Benoit Bethume, with whom we produce our lookbooks, offers us an outside vision and helps us consolidate our discourse. He manages to understand what we want to do respectively, but also together, as a duo. And there are our families. Mansour’s mother, his sisters, and Martin’s grandmother help us in the production of certain pieces. We also work with independent tailors who produce ‘on demand’ parts ordered on our website. We are glad to be able to highlight this work. It is a profession that often focuses a little too much on the logo or the artistic direction of a brand.
Do you see Mansour Martin as a new fashion ‘factory’?
It’s an opportunity to make what normally happens in fashion very transparent, it’s above all a team effort. A brand is a point of view on the world, by working with artists it helps us to open up our point of view a little more, to introduce an element of surprise. We are considering other forms of collaboration. Projects outside the collections, moments. We have lots of things in mind, always with the guiding principle of bringing together ideas or disciplines that we don’t often get to see.
Fashion Week is now different from how we used to know it, how will you present your future collections?
Showroom meetings allow us to forge links with buyers and journalists and to create a larger network. We are fortunate to be supported by the Paris Haute Couture and Fashion Federation, through the SPHERE showroom. It has helped us a lot so far. But we can’t wait to make our first presentation. The passage of clothing over the moving body is important. Our economic reality means that we have to do things with caution. So not a show, but rather a hybrid format to begin with. It will be done at the right time for us.
What is your dream for Mansour Martin?
We see Mansour Martin growing as an ambassador brand for innovation in textiles. A more global brand to extend our range, with other products, always with a focus on craftsmanship and new solutions that will allow us, on our own scale, to keep doing things better in this sector which must be transformed a lot. A bit like a medium that reflects and compiles all the innovations that are made and created in France and in Europe. And above all to continue to enrich ourselves, and to develop thanks to fantastic meetings … and we also dream of a ‘boutique gallery’ in Paris.