She looks so much like Scheherazade as she is feminine, sensual and daring like her, with a skillful mix of sweetness, humor and outspokenness that both captures and amazes. Then we enter the intimacy of the Arras workshop, where Sylvie Facon creates her 1001 dresses. Beautiful gowns to dress her clients or her friends during shows and exhibitions where we are plunged in her enchanting and poetic world. She has such a very personal style as, like a painter on her canvas, she gives free rein to her imagination and releases creative gestures with incredible artworks. And as in the story, what lasts is the richness of heart with her gaze at each woman that reveals their inner beauty and communicates joy.
Her childhood in Arras
“I didn’t have a positive childhood experience. My parents were elderly, from a modest background and I am the youngest of four siblings.” Her father, a mobile policeman, was often on the move, and her mother was harsh for them as she had sacrificed her beauty and intelligence for a family life. The sensitive girl she was will be marked by this lack of harmony. She will find refuge in the family garden, her corner of nature, where she will escape and draw all day long. “We had an encyclopedia “All the universe” and I remember, when I was a child, I used to stay for hours contemplating the sketches of historical costumes.” After an uneventful school, her parents will encourage her to choose rather intellectual studies. For my graduating class, I hesitated between Philosophy or Art, but the second option was improbable as my parents could not afford to pay the fees for a private school. Her studies will be disrupted by a romantic encounter. At the age of 17, Sylvie Facon will leave her family to live with her student boyfriend, and she will start working to pay the household expenses. “I loved painting and started giving silk painting lessons in associations.” Then, she went back to study, in the Beaux-Arts this time, and obtained a diploma of letter-painter. A home of Arras for Young Female Workers will offer her a job in the social management as a facilitator for creative workshops. She was only 20 years old. There, she will brilliantly pass an equivalent of the bachelor’s degree, then the entrance examination to the IUT and three years later, she will obtain her DUT in Social Careers.
A creative and people person
“Then I expressed the desire to evolve” and she will obtain a National Diploma in Animation Functions, thus fully expressing her leadership qualities and organizational skills. In her daily work, Sylvie will do wonders helping and mobilizing fragile people around vibrant, enthusiastic and active projects. She will join the celebration of year-round festivals and events dressing the young ladies to enjoy a moment of happiness and warmth. This is where she started to sew, “and I wanted to improve myself and do more than better each year, so I definitely got into it.” In her spare time, she will start to embroidering sophisticated pieces and it became a passion. “One day, an old lady who was part of the Executive Committee, and who had been in the past a Haute Couture workshop elf, offered me some training, because she was amazed by the beauty of the shows without any technical knowledge.” Sylvie will learn some basic techniques with her, such as cutting a garment in the right line or put a bias to avoid the twist. And with her insatiable curiosity, she will go even further, learning and practicing by herself. “It was above all her confidence and his eyes that I needed, and it helped me to gain confidence and think of a new professional path.” Circumstances will help her too, and in 2008, after nearly 30 years in social animation, Sylvie Facon will decide to set up to her own business.
The success and her workshop
The talented stylist had already been noticed at a local level during all these years of practice. She accompanied a theater troupe to make their costumes and friends of hers for their wedding dresses. One day, the city of Arras asked her to dress a laureate of a prestigious national contest. “I was given carte blanche to create a dress that symbolizes the country of Artois, and I immediately said yes.” The result was impressive: a red and blue dress with lily flowers and, hand painted, the Houses of Places on a corselet, then the skirt and a wreath of wheat. Her creation will win the prize in the first conquest for the best local costume of France, with Christian Gasc, a famous costumier. This was in 1998 and Sylvie Facon will gain an important media coverage.
“This inspired me to satisfy a secret yearning: do a dress like a master painting.” She will compose Les Baigneuses, in a Pre-Raphaelite style, in green tones with nymphs painted on a pond and undergrowth setting. “I still work in the same way today, by assembling the dress like on a canvas where the fabrics become colors. Here, a fusion of blue for the water and green for the skirt, with silk painting of some parts, then a delicate addition of golden fabric for the sunbeam.” A real work of art! The final result is a central design and everything else radiated in color by the direct joining of the materials. The success is immediate. “The curator who saw my work asked me to organize a show in the museum. That evening, Sylvie will meet the lace-maker Jean Bracq, who will become a friend. “Since that day and thanks to this encounter, I turned to do only dresses using the delicacy of Caudry’s lace.” In 2008, Sylvie Facon will start her own business and quickly installed her workshop in the Robespierre House in Arras, where she will practice from 2011 to 2015, before moving to the current address, rue du Presbytère Sainte Croix.
The 1001 dresses
First, she does tailor-made dresses for her clients, creating around their feminine forms, with a great listening to their wishes. And she manages every project from start to finish, with a unique creative approach that makes all the difference. “I build the corset bases with illusion tulles. It thus makes a molding of the body by adapting itself completely to each morphology. My objective is to highlight my clients’ assets that could be physical, but also their personality, and so make them even more beautiful.” Sylvie Facon is a hard worker and she spends the rest of her time painting her personal creations with pieces that take sometimes 300 hours of work on two to three weeks each. The dress becomes a pretext, a vehicle of communication, that leaves room to imagination and poetic sensitivity, in a style very similar to steampunk fashion.
“It’s like a dream, with timeless dresses worn by ideal women and each have a different personality.” The talented stylist and designer likes also to reveal the aesthetics of everyday objects. She created a dress “Tribute to violin”, or “Tribute to books” with covers of manuscripts in a masterful dress of 40 meters of width at the bottom, or “Tribute to the time”, made in just a few days with a sundial under the skirt, an hourglass, cogs and needles in the back, or to the nature, according to her inspiration like the “vegetable dress” or that in straw and lace. Soon, the artist also plans to create a “porcelain dress” to pay tribute to the Bleu d’Arras. Two books on her work have already been published: “Fil, rêves & volupté” and et “La vie rêvée des robes”. A third one is planned in 2019. She will also collaborate this year with international customers: an Irish, Californian, a New Yorker and an Englishwoman. Finally, a trip is planned to Iran to teach for a week at a prestigious Haute-Couture School. “I do not foresee anything and I let myself go with the flow!”
What a wonderful philosophy she has, and when added to all the values of integrity, commitment and courage she cultivates daily. Sylvie Facon is indeed like the popular heroine who used her imagination, her human qualities and her talent to bring dreams to others. Her shows are striking with beauty and truth, where she appears as this captivating storyteller of textile creations but also as a painter of incredible works of art, that release energies and soften hearts. Indeed, this shooting star has a story that will continue for long days and nights!
Interview held by Carine Mouradian at Arras on December 1, 2018
Link to the website of Sylvie Facon
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