Models: ANGEL LIN
Photographer: ANTHONY GIOVANNI
makeup jake stone
hair Christopher Finley
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The Contemporary and Enigmatic Minds Behind the Masked Designers
Who is behind the bold, big, elegant and handmade designs of your brand? Tell us anything you want about yourself and how you incorporate that into your designs.
Thanks for having me! My name is Michelle Hébert and I am the Creative Director as well as the maker of the designs within my brand.
I’m a mixed-race, southern Californian native that comes from a modest lower/middle-class upbringing. As a young child, my parents and I lived in a condo in Azuza that was just the right size for the three of us where we slept on a Tatami mattress. My parents embraced me as an individual for my love of the arts and for my tomboyish attributes. They never forced me to be traditional feminine often letting me play with action figures and cars along with my dolls and playsets.
We later moved to this little airport cow-town as I call it named Ontario where my parents had my brother and sister. My father is half black, half white and my mother is an immigrant from the Philippines who though culturally and part Filipino, is mostly Chinese, as well as just a bit Portuguese.
Growing up my “normal” was a little different from my peers. Something I only realized once I visited their homes, or as an adult when I had deeper conversations about culture and tradition. I celebrated much of my African American roots on my dad’s side, and my Filipino background on my mom’s side. My last name Hébert most recently originated from ancestors who lived in Louisiana, where we’ve been told we may have a connection to slaves and plantation owners.
This multicultural upbringing gave me a layered and sometimes tangled perspective of people and the world. In hindsight, it made me open-minded from an early age, and less able to adhere to strict categories throughout my life. I’ve always been a little uncomfortable seeing people in strict racial or gendered boxes.
Your gowns and clothing you make are sometimes larger than life, and you are not afraid to push your boundaries in your craft.
What is the message you are sending out to the world with your brand?
Visually and existentially: vulnerability is powerful, not to be feared as a weakness. The human form is to be exalted as we and living forms, in general, are curiously wonderful things. Creation is a noble pursuit that can help us admire the perfect hand that nature possesses while helping us grapple with the beauty and strangeness of existence.
On less visible note: we need to have more difficult conversations. We are stronger together as a collaborating community rather than divided and distracted by those in power. Rules that do not serve people, our boundless creativity, the earth, or the future should be broken. Not sure if my work is coming across saying all that, but I am!
Let’s go past the numbers that go into branding and sales.
Is there a particular mission or path you believe your design career is taking you?
I aim to see myself and my brand on a global stage. Ideally in a position of influence within the world of art and business that offers me a way to help build a stronger world community. Through mind-shifting, ideas that bring us together and a greater say overproduction methods that are damaging our home the planet earth. I would want a future that minimizes methods that turn our planet into a timebomb of our own making and removes practices that harm the quality of life from one individual for the indulgent comfort of another. There is little that is pretty, cute, or beautiful about accepting creations that have someone else's sacrifice woven into them.
What’s your brand’s mission statement?
To pursue creation that embraces fluidity, the surreal, the sublime, while attempts at understanding our humanity in all its forms.
Fluidity in culture, fluidity in gender, fluidity in reality-bending rules in fashion and thus redefining the norm.
Is there a particular routine you have for creating a design from the conception of an idea, to its realization?
A design is usual born in those unexpected moments. Spacing out, driving, reading, or while sitting around with all distractions in another room. It starts with the idea.
As a personal practice, I avoid looking at other designers’ work when developing my designs. I only permit this when working with bridal clients, but for my own work, I try to avoid imagery like the plague as it could influence my thoughts and dilute the end creation. I can be purest in some aspects of my life and this is one of them. I prefer to see what's coming into focus in my mind and almost nothing else.
Following the idea comes the drawing, the best designs (I feel) are roughly sketched out in about 5 minutes, with the details coming later. I then source the materials and tools, followed by problem-solving the construction plan for the piece which often results in panicked pacing and lots of dead stares into a wall for 30 minutes as I build the design in my head. Lastly, the design becomes a reality. I bring all the pieces together through technical pattern making, draping, sewing, embroidery and sometimes top off the sewn design with more passionate finishing touches such as distressing, and painting.
Anyone who has seen your designs in photographs (or has been lucky enough to see them in person) immediately notices the highlighted effort, time, and detail that go into your wearable art. Do you have any plans on creating a full runway collection, and where would your ideal location be to have your designs go down a runway?
Most definitely! Hopefully sooner rather than later. It a matter of locating the proper funding through the right investor or investors. As fashion shows are no longer really for buyers and more for the theater and performance I imagine I would be able to unleash much of myself into a visual showcase, displaying highly crafted artistic designs on binary/non-binary models of varied backgrounds in a fully immersive environment, transporting the viewers in to a strange unknown world. The intention is to have the viewer forget where they are for a moment, feel lost in the experience, and emerge awake, energized, and hopefully with a few provocative existential questions.