Karine Arabian: A rising fashion muse
When I discovered, for example, that Schiaparelli’s surreal sweaters had been made by an Armenian, I couldn’t believe it! She not only knitted the sweaters, but she designed many of them herself – that’s what interested me the most.
This means that if the Armenians have a long tradition of craftsmanship, what really fascinated me was discovering their creative power, the taste and the refinement that these Armenians introduced into French fashion.
AMS: How did your own career start? What are you most proud of?
KA: My career really started in 1994 when I participated in the “Festival de la Mode de Hyères” which is today the most important fashion competition in France. I entered my jewelry and accessories and won the contest. After that, I started creating jewelry under my own name but also for houses such as Swarovski and Chanel. It was a real apprenticeship for me, because it taught me the requirements of working with a large luxury house.
In 2000, I created my own line of shoes, leather goods, jewelry and accessories. The business has operated for 14 exciting years during which I have been able to create a whole universe of accessories that a woman can wear without it being a disguise of any kind, a universe that is both sensual and creative without ever be excessive. . I always try to find the true strength of every line I create.
In 2000, I created my first line of shoes with rounded toes. It was a first, a precursor to later trends because at the time we were in the midst of “porno-chic”, an aggressive style that favored pointed tips, a very gendered fashion.
After that, many designers followed in my footsteps, including Marc Jacobs and Chloé. In the year 2000, and then definitely in 2010, rounded toes adorned most women’s shoes…
The Karine Arabian brand: a Parisian imprint and international success in Asia, the United States, Russia, etc. Among her clients, stars like Audrey Tautou, Vanessa Paradis, Scarlett Johansson, Madonna, Beth Ditto and many others. This adventure ended in 2015. Then I took some time to process those amazing and wonderfully eventful years. Running a business at the breakneck speed of the fashion world is exhausting and you don’t have time for a personal life. I started a family and reconnected with a more personal creativity.
AMS: Which brings us to your current effort. Let’s talk about this wonderfully exciting new creation, JN. Mellor Club. What is special about this new line?
KA: I created JN. Mellor club with my partner Franck Blais, graphic designer and artistic director and former art gallery owner. JN. The Mellor Club is intended to bring together our expertise as well as our shared passion for creativity. It is a brand that manufactures objects and accessories that exist at the frontiers of fashion, where art and design intersect.
AMS: So the idea is to create leather goods and jewelry that are both works of art, right?
KA: The idea is not to fixate on the everyday notion of what an accessory is, but rather to free oneself from the shackles and stereotypes of fashion. Going from object to accessory gives us the freedom to expand our creativity and bring our own inspirations to life. And yes, that’s the idea too: we create accessories that look as good when worn on the body as they do when they sit in your living room like works of art.
AMS: The name you chose for your new brand is also intriguing, mysterious in a way. What is JN? Mellor Club means exactly?
KA: JN.MELLOR CLUB tells our own personal stories and what we want to convey through the brand. So, for starters, JN are the initials of our respective mothers. Next, we wanted a name that wasn’t explicitly gendered, neither feminine nor masculine, or both, or anything in between. Mellor is the name of a society columnist of the 1920s but also the real name of Joe Strummer (John Mellor) who was the singer of The Clash – and 1/8 Armenian for that matter! JN. Mellor therefore brings together both gender and rock n’ roll issues, two things that are close to our hearts. Then there is the word “club” itself which brings together the notions of community, gathering, transversality, but also an image that inspires us: that of a discotheque, a sports club, a English club etc… JN. Mellor Club is a long name for a brand, and hard to remember, but once you have it fixed in your head, it stays there forever!
AMS: Where do you find your inspiration? Who influenced your style or that of your brand?
KA: We cling to the idea of creating accessories that favor sensuality, and which are made of exceptional materials that take on unique shapes. We recover old leather goods from animal carcasses from major luxury houses because this gives us access to the finest leathers and allows us to participate in rigorous upcycling. We try to free ourselves from any influence of fashion itself and instead create bridges between art and design. We create objects from rubble that we find in the street or on construction sites, then we cover them with beautiful leathers and sew everything by hand in the tradition of the workshop. From found objects, imposed by circumstances or chance, this gives us the beginnings of our own personal alphabet. Caring for something that has been thrown away creates a headache. We take something that was considered obsolete and then we transform it, we change its status and we give it a second life. It is also another expression of the poetry that we find in our daily lives.
AMS: Why a club? There’s something excluding about this notion, isn’t it?
KA: No. Here the club is a means of not isolating oneself, of not remaining locked in on one’s own creativity. It means fostering collaborations with artists and designers, creating bridges between worlds and growing our community. It also means that the members of our club share our common values and the privileged moments that surround the creative process, in the broad sense of the term. It’s a way of seeing luxury as a vector of social diversity.
AMS: What are your goals or aspirations for JN. Mellor Club? And finally where to buy or contemplate these very beautiful works of art?
KA: JN. The Mellor Club is a place where you can buy accessories and works of art, but where you can also attend an exhibition or a poetry reading. We want to make JN. Mellor Club a brand centered on “the art of living”. While waiting to have this place in place, we are going to organize events with art galleries or unusual places so that our creations can enter into dialogue with other artists. We are also creating an e-shop accessible from our website.
AMS: This is all very exciting. Thank you Karine.
KA: Thank you Christopher.
Learn more about Karine Arabian and JB. Mellor Club: www.jnmellorclub.com
Lily Fashion Armenians : https://www.amazon.com.au/Karine-Arabian-Armenians-Armenians-17th-21st/dp/2757200836