Andrew Gn launched his collection in 1996, specializing in highly detailed ready-to-wear informed by haute couture practices. Today, he dresses social swans and celebrities, as well as modern women looking for a beautiful yet practical wear to take from day to evening. Earlier this month, TIME caught a glimpse of his cult following while visiting his Paris atelier one afternoon.
What is the inspiration behind the new spring collection?
I found a 1961 LIFE magazine in a puces [French flea market] about six months ago. It…had all beautiful pictures of Queen Elizabeth II visiting India: vibrant colors, spicy colors, beautiful white wardrobe of the Queen. There was this beautiful photo of the Queen in this bright saffron taffeta dress riding a bejeweled elephant. It’s like a dream, and I said, I love that, so I took the inspiration as that for the season. There are also a lot of simple dresses with a dramatic neckline, like a built-in shawl, almost a Japanese feel. So I said it is like Queen Elizabeth II visiting India with a stopover in Japan.
You’ve referenced different places and eras in this collection. Do you travel often?
I travel a lot for work, and I do travel a lot for my pleasure as well. I’m always on the go. So I love, whenever I go to a new city, I always try to find the best museums, antique shops, and I go and look for antique textiles. It is how I get my inspiration as well, through museums, through very beautiful things, and different cities and different way of dressing up. The first time I visited India I was only 9. My father was there for business, so I was in Mumbai [Bombay at the time] and New Delhi, and it was during the spice festival. I always remember that we visited a temple, and they were throwing spice on each other. And all I can remember is this saffron and yellow rich orange and burnt sienna colors all around me. It was so hot, and I was sick for days after that, but it stayed as a great memory for me.
People always gravitate to and know you for your evening wear. Why is that?
Probably because of celebrity dressing. Celebrities always get photographed wearing our evening gowns on the red carpet. However, having said that, our business is 90% daywear and 10% of evening. So evening is just a very small part of our business. But as they get photographed a lot on celebrities I guess that goes into the mindset of people. But our daywear and cocktail are the main draw of the collection.
For you, what is important about living here in Paris, and having your atelier here in Paris? Why not New York, or London, Milan?
I was born in Singapore and brought up in England. My mother sent me to boarding school when I was 10 and a half, living in London, and then lived in New York, lived in Italy, so I’ve been all over the place. When I first saw Paris I was only 11. I came here on a school trip. I fell in love with Paris—I thought everything was so beautiful. So I said, I would like to work in Paris one day. And you know, I’ve lived in New York, Milan, Paris, and it was such a nostalgic choice for me, to move to Paris, because of the beauty. But when I came and established myself as a designer here, I realized that you could find so many amazing ateliers and savior-faire en France, and especially in Paris, to make jewelry, to make trimmings, to make buttons, to crafting the clothing and that is really important for me because I don’t think I can find that elsewhere. The origin of couture is here, and my clothes are of a really high quality, and they are all made in France. I live here for aesthetic reasons.
We shot Marion Cotillard wearing a blouse of yours in our fall issue—and I hear you’re a fan of hers?
When I saw the image I was so thrilled. Marion Cotillard, I think, is the most international French actress. She has a major career in Hollywood, despite the fact that she is very much based in Paris. For me she is an amazing actress because, she manages to forget about her own beauty to immerse herself in her role, to play that character and to bring her alive. It was really such a pleasure to dress her and I am so ready to dress her again.