Image credit: Jamie Beck
Today we journey to Provence where Tarik Koivisto, the founder of Luxe Provence a brand known for it’s effortlessly chic dresses that are meant for walking through fields of sunflowers and lavender or strolling through the grounds of a beautiful chateau garden.
The brand recently collaborated with the Varvel family who own the beautifully restored 18th century farmhouse known as Mas des Poiriers just outside of Avignon. In this interview Tarik shares us about how she came up with the idea for her brand, Luxe Provence, along with an inside look at what goes into creating a collaborative collection.
When did you first come up with the idea to found Luxe Provence, a brand where you design effortlessly chic designs from the South of France?
Well, honestly the idea for the brand came to me in the shower, of course! And when it came, I couldn’t sleep for two days until I created the branding and logo, which was my first design occupation for over 15 years. Later on the brand evolved into the clothing only, which was an opportunity for me to fuse my passions.
You are from San Francisco, but you’ve settled into life in Provence with your husband and two sons. How did you decide on Provence as the home base for yourself as well as the brand, Luxe Provence?
Each year when we lived in San Francisco, we would visit my husband’s family in the South of France where he grew up. Once I discovered Provence, I was smitten and always brought back a piece of art or clothing from the artisan markets each year. Once our sons were getting to be school-aged, I pushed for a permanent move to Provence where we could have a more slow-paced work/life balance. My husband and I sought out charming villages near Aix-en-Provence that could allow our children a simple, but high-quality upbringing yet close to the international community and art culture of Aix.
Image Credit: Jamie Beck
Where do you sketch the majority of your designs?
In my garden!
You recently collaborated on a collection with the Varvel family who are behind the beautifully restored 18th century farmhouse Mas des Poiriers located just outside of Avignon. How did the collaboration come about?
Yes, this was such an exciting project. The Varvel family approached me to design a special dress inspired by their gorgeous Mas des Poiriers that included integrating the prestigious Pierre Frey fabrics that are used throughout their home. We worked closely together to also integrate linen colors that told the story of their summer’s spent on their property, as well as, the gorgeous prints used through their beautifully designed Mas.
What would you say is the primary source of inspiration behind this particular collection?
This summer’s primary source of inspiration was really the Luberon and creating effortless and comfortable pieces for a wide range of body shapes and sizes. I always want my customers to be able to wear their dresses barefoot in the garden, then pair with heels for a dinner out. It’s really about sharing the special lifestyle that draws so many creative people and artists to Provence.
Image Credit: Tarik Koivisto for Luxe Provence with model Louise Pascale in Juliette and Camille
Tell me about the process you go through when working on a collaboration, from the initial design process to the finished collection.
I love to travel to various regions of Provence for inspiration, from the the seaside of Cassis to the Luberon. I am inspired by the natural landscapes, beauty and the rich artist history of the chic cities, such as St Remy, Arles and Aix-en-Provence. I like to people watch in these cities to see what type of outfits people gravitate towards and also pull in color inspiration from the city streets. Aix, for instance has a very golden palette, while Arles has so many striking blue/greys and reds. I then sit down each season and sketch collections that fit into three categories: Luberon, romantic pieces, city chic and Mediterranean inspired.
From the raw sketches, I work with three amazing couturiere here in Provence to bring the designs to life. All of my collections are proudly produced here in Provence and I work very hard to source sustainable and natural materials. My collections are known for their very high quality linens. To keep to my sustainable values, most dresses are sold on a pre-sale basis so that we can plan stock accordingly and never have waste. I also photograph all of my collections myself so I can bring the vision to life in the beautiful landscapes of Provence, which is a dream job come true for me.
The Mas des Poiriers collection featured prints from the well known and esteemed French fabric house, La Maison Pierre Frey. What do you love most about working with fabrics from Pierre Frey?
These prints were amazing! I loved both the whimsy and history that La Maison Pierre Frey brought to this collaboration. The Ismaelia and Crespieres patterns were my absolute favourites and brought a very special element of design and quality to this project.
Image Credit: Tarik Koivisto for Luxe Provence with model Louise Pascale in Anais, Manon & Athena
The linen pieces were inspired by the blue shutters of Mas des Poiriers…. How do you feel both the aesthetic of Mas des Poiriers and that of Luxe Provence were reflected in the collaboration.
Yes, this French ciel blue is one of my personal favourites and a color I had already been using in our Luxe Provence Collection this year, so it remained cohesive with both the Mas des Poiriers palette and the Luxe Provence brand. The Mas des Poiriers itself is a perfect example of the iconic farm houses in the area that so many people dream about and collaborating together was a great way to visually communicate the luxury lifestyle of Provence.
Louise Pascal and Jamie Beck are often featured both on your website and on social media. In fact you also created a capsule collection with Jamie. What makes these two beautiful women the ideal models for Luxe Provence?
I love working with these two amazing women. I believe it’s important to work and collaborate with people who have the same values, creative spirit and love of Provence as my brand. I seek to work and collaborate with true artisans living and working in Provence each season, who possess a natural beauty and passion for the region. Not only do both of these women have these qualities, but they are extremely talented in their professions and a true pleasure to work with.
Founder/Creative Director Tarik Koivisto in Marguerite Dress (white linen)
Your collections are made with sustainable and natural materials (linen, silk and cotton) and you work with the finest artisans, couturiers and ateliers of the Provence region. What is the most important factor in maintaining a successful working relationship?
I am extremely proud of our ethical values and the teams I get to work and collaborate with here in Provence. It was not easy to set-up and find, but now I have extremely reliable, smart women that I work closely with from couturieres, atelier and production management. We have respect for one another and they have taught me so much about couture here in France. I have worked closely with Laure, my lead couturiere for over 3 years now and she helped carry our production over the COVID crisis and was proud to support her family with our work together. I have the best team! I also hand-select every fabric with extremely high quality standards, including using OEKO Tex certified linen from Europe, along with deadstock fabric sourced locally and from Italy. I also work closely with two women textile designers on special edition series featuring plant-based dyes, including indigo. Both of these artisans, Atelier Simone and Aurore Pelisson, work solely with plant-based dyes and it’s a pleasure to truly create sustainable pieces.
How do you select who collaborate with and do you have any collaborations currently planned for 2021?
Research, aesthetic and a gut feeling. I always meet in-person first to assess values, goals and chemistry and to make sure I see the work / discuss the project in person. Working with people I like and admire, and whom are kind is the absolute best. Yes! For 2021, I have a new collaboration I am currently working on coming up with Jamie Beck to complete our timeless capsule collection, along with a few other very exciting projects that I cannot reveal just yet coming in time for the holiday.
Shop Luxe Provence and follow along via Instagram @luxeprovence and @tarik_koivisto
All images provided by Tarik Koivisto, individual credits listed below each image.