CHARLES FRÉGER: MYSTICAL WILDMAN
An edgy collection characterised by attention to detail and appreciation for substance called for a chronicler with similar preoccupations. The images by Charles Fréger are just as at home in documentary-style publications like National Geographic or fashion magazines Dazed & Confused and Another Magazine. His photographic work often features revealing portraits of exotic characters from around the globe, exploring the value of myth and ritual to human nature.
Fréger was just the man to create a narrative for the bespectacled crew in MYKITA + Maison Martin Margiela designs. The scene of the campaign that appears to document a celestial happening of some kind was captured on a Paris rooftop in the yellow light of January. The participants, their shaded eyes turned skywards, consists of models but also employees from both design houses. The handsome model twins in one of the lead images reference the themes of optical illusion and soul mates from the collection.
MYKITA Journal met with artist and photographer Charles Fréger and got the lowdown on his link to the fashion-world, his fascination with collective identity and the story behind the MYKITA + Maison Martin Margiela campaign.
Photos by Charles Fréger
1. Your images are featured in documentary-style publications like National Geographic, as well as fashion magazines like Dazed&Confused and Another Magazine: What element of your art makes it work in both these scenarios?
Firstly, each project is an experiment and experience for me. My interest for clothing, costumes, and uniforms, which are often very traditional, connects me with ease to fashion-culture. I love to be consistent, maintaining the same practices that have already been tested in various environments. There is a notion about a certain process of shooting, without necessarily being bound to an entirely conceptual project. I like to come up with something more poetic, and I like the idea of communality, which recurs constantly in my creations, be they editorials, or everyday fashion.
2. We’re big fans of your work, which seems to study people in the context of myth, ritual and cultural traditions. Where does this fascination come from?
Between 2004 and 2008, I worked on portraits of royal guards and European republicans, and I would often come across soldiers wearing bearskin caps with ostrich feather plumes, or even tiger skin. I was fascinated with the idea that savagery was one of the essential ingredients for the creation of a formal uniform. From seeing these bearskin hats, woollen outfits, and golden buttons I naturally had the idea to photograph these men who were genuinely in bear costumes, men who were aiming to make an impression, to dominate their fear. And of course, all of this goes back to the dawn of time. And due to my travels, I met many groups where men were dressed as beasts, and some became them.
3. Would you say your portraits are more focused on revealing the individual, or creating a character?
It’s a back-and-forth between the individual and the collective identity, often with contradictory discourse surrounding these two theories. Be it that the identity of the group triumphs over that of the individual, or that the individual reinforces their identity through the existence of the group. Personally, I love the idea that man is a social being; that the identity of something does not exist without belonging to a community. Beyond that, I worked on how one finds their place; how within every society we dress ourselves, we transform ourselves, and we invent personalities: being ourselves, and someone or something else at the same time.
4. You’re the photographer behind our MYKITA + Maison Martin Margiela campaign. Were you excited when you heard about the project?
Oh yes, I really was! This was because I had a great respect for the project, for such a culture of clothing and all the innovations that it shares. I also like that which is highly ritualised within Margiela, the elements of research, experimentation, and a strong link between the piece of clothing and its uses, standards, and the manipulation of these same standards and their usages. This really resonates with my own work.
5. Your images carry a certain mystique, especially the Wilder Mann series. Would you say this is part of your signature and can be found in the campaign?
Yes, to see everyone looking in the same direction, without us knowing for certain what they’re looking at, an eclipse, or just a speck in the sky. I love the idea of communality, the moment where one feels ‘human’ and incredibly small! It’s solemn, powerful, focussing, inspiring.
6. We’d love to know what you’re working on at the moment. Can you tell us something about your upcoming projects?
The next book will be on Breton caps… And I promise that it won’t be any more folkloric than Wilder Mann was. I love Breton caps in that they have a specific, ritualised meaning, worn at a particular age, by a certain type of Breton women, with various fashions from different towns of Brittany. I have taken portraits of around one hundred Breton caps, within around sixty Breton-Celtic groups. It’s less savage than Wilder Mann, and this time it’s exclusively feminine. Nevertheless, there are still hidden beliefs behind this series, be they heathen or not.
About the collection:
The MYKITA + Maison Martin Margiela collection is made up of the ESSENTIAL and the DUAL line. The former speaks to the purists with its pared down aesthetic: a stainless steel frame with a transparent coating to create a just-visible convex body. Monochrome frames and matching lenses equal a pure and radical look. DUAL perfectly encapsulates the witty and subtly strange design that Maison Martin Margiela has always championed. The acetate range in two distinct shapes and five colour-ways presents sets of twin-pairs with opposite yet complementary features.