“Social phobia: important and persistent fear of social situations or situations where a person must perform. Fear of being in embarrassing situations where one could be judged, watched, humiliated...”
While exploring the troubled relationship between the individual and his environment, Josiane Provencher, came up with the concept behind Proven. She went on to create a collection of women and men’s clothing both fashionable and discreet. So discreet, that it intends to “hide” the individual’s silhouette from the preying eye. Such work is a rare sight in the fashion industry, making it an original start for a young designer with a social conscience.
Provencher’s creations play with dark colors, thick materials and textured surfaces, offering a convenient urban camouflage, thus preventing from being noticed. Made to be used as a personal protective shelter, the garment becomes a cocoon.
Baron: Why fashion?
Josiane Provencher: In fact, I originally wanted to be a police officer! Fashion has always interested me, but I didn’t know there was programs specialized in fashion design. When I learned that the Campus Notre-Dame de Foy offered the technique, I thought: “Why not?” While completing the program, I heard about the B. A., which seemed to me as a great way to continue and expand my understanding of fashion.
B.: What made you want to explore the theme of social phobia as a creative concept?
J. P.: I chose social phobia because the concept piqued my interest. I am a shy person without any phobias. So what I was going through actually inspired me, while I was feeding on the research I was doing to understand the phenomenon. However, as I tried to create commercially accessible clothing, I had to put some distance between the concept of social phobia and myself, but it remained the starting point of the whole collection.
B.: Social phobia is something very visually abstract, so how does it shape your collection?
J. P.: Social phobia can be explained in part by the fear of how your think people perceive you. With that in mind, I went with basic shapes, slightly arched, that wrap the silhouette and give the impression to “hide” the shape of the body. This translates into a minimalistic collection that plays with rectangular shapes and dark colors, in shades of dark gray, with a touch of white. The color palette reflects the concept of social phobia a little, but it also brings out a classical look – that I especially like.
B.: You said you explored social phobia from your own timidity. Do your environment and your feelings always inspire you?
J. P.: It depends on my constraints. I am inspired by everything, may it be other creators’ work as much as what I see on the street. There are bits of it all in my creations. Jean-Paul Gaultier is one of the designers that inspire me greatly. I admire his audacity; he doesn’t seem to be stopped by anything!
B.: Is there an issue that stands out for you in the fashion industry?
J. P.: It’d have to be the situation opposing the big players like H&M, ZaraandForever21to the small designers. There are a lot of bigger brands that won’t give any chance to up and coming designers. The competition is getting fiercer and it’s becoming harder to make your own place in the industry. If the “fast fashion”does so well, nowadays, you must understand that people are looking for trendy, good and reasonably priced clothes. And that is what is hard for us as local designers. We have to charge a higher price to cover our costs and, unfortunately, we cannot do otherwise.
B.: These large companies have a great influence on our local industry, so how do you think your can set up camp in Montreal’s fashion industry?
J. P.: I think it will be difficult, since there are so few of us. Fortunately, people are becoming socially aware and are starting to buy local, which helps a lot. I might return to Québec city, eventually, and it could be different over there, since it’s a smaller market. You have to persevere, whichever city you decide to establish yourself in.
B.: Considering all this, which patch will you choose after completing your degree?
J. P.: For the next two or three years, I would like to work in the industry and acquire a little more experience. In five years, I will know if I'd rather work for someone or if I’d be better settling down as an independent designer. It’s a challenge that stimulates me. During my internship at DUY, I saw what it’s like to work alone, I 've seen how exciting the job can be, but what a workload! So if I start my own business, it certainly will not be all by myself!