Olympia Le-Tan’s collection of hand crafted clutches are geek chic personified. With her quirky fusion of fashion and literature, Le-Tan has won the hearts of fashion’s darlings both across the channel and closer to home. Her most recent collection, Housewife’s Choice, inspired by the life of a Fifties housewife, features embroidered covers of recipe books as well as a handful of classics such as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. We caught up with Olympia to discuss the joys of a good book and eating jacket potatoes.
Hi Olympia. Can you introduce yourself for us?
I’m Olympia Le-Tan, I am a British born French fashion designer. I make bags that look like books.
Could you tell us about your childhood in Paris? Has Paris influenced your designs in any way?
I grew up in the 2nd arrondissement, where I now live again. I love Paris. It’s the prettiest city in the world. I could never live anywhere else. I suppose it does have an influence on my designs.
Your father, Pierre Le-Tan is a renowned French illustrator. Do you think he has influenced your creativity?
Definitely. Growing up watching him draw all the time made me want to do something creative. Thanks to him, I was always surrounded by beautiful things, which I suppose also helps. I think I have inherited his patience. He crosshatches and I stitch. We are both very meticulous.
Can you tell us about your most recent collection?
It’s called Housewife’s Choice. It is inspired by the life of a 50s housewife. So there are cookbooks, books about marriage and divorce, things for the kitchen...
Describe the design making process.
First I select the book cover, then I make the embroidery based on the image of the cover. The embroidery is sent to a small workshop where they mount it onto a brass frame and line it with Liberty print fabric, and the clutch is ready!
What is your preferred material to use and why?
I love using felt. I love the simple and naïve aspect. It’s also very retro and I am a nostalgic person.
How do you decide which books to use on the bags?
At first I chose my favourite books and found the first edition covers. Now I pick themes, and find books with great titles and inspiring graphic covers. I seem to mostly select books from the 40s and 50s.
What’s your favourite book?
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson Mc Cullers.
And your favourite author?
You’ve recently incorporated silk scarves into your collection. Could you tell us the inspiration behind this?
I love silk scarves and have a big collection. So I asked my father and my friend Mathias Augustyniak to design some scarves inspired by my last collection. They are handmade in France, and are stitched by hand all around the edges.
What’s been the highest achievement of your career so far?
Seeing my bags on people like Natalie Portman, Clémence Poesy or Tilda Swinton.
What are you working on currently?
My next collection.
Describe your perfect day.
A day out with my niece and little brother. They are the funniest people I know.
Can you tell us your 3 favourite things to do in London?
Buying fabric at Liberty, eating jacket potatoes, visiting the Museum of Childhood.
5 things you can’t live without.
My camera, my computer, my phone (embarrassing but true!) a good book and my cat.
Olympia Le-Tan’s clutches are available from Browns.
Words by Alex Rhodes