Journalist Pihla Hintikka spoke with Johann Meunier, the creator of brand Hadès, about fireproofing durable workwear, slow fashion and setting up his own rules of business.
Pihla Hintikka: Who are you and how did you end up here ?
Johann Meunier: Born in France, raised in Iceland.
I have family and friends in both countries. I’ve lived
in Paris and Reykjavìk all my life. I found myself standing
on a crossroad and like many others before me,
I met the devil, we talked about John Milton, Sigmund Freud and gangsters. I sold my soul right there and then.
Now I’m making super strong clothes with a long lasting elegance, right here and now.
PH: Hades makes plumber’s work clothes cool and modern. Correct ?
JM: Workwear is already cool. I make elegant clothes but exclusively with the French workwear industry. I just want to make clothes that are elegant, strong and useful. I want clothes to last many years and endure
any temperature in a washing machine and weekly ironing too. The fabrics I use are all weaved here in France
at TDV industries (they made fabrics for the soldiers uniforms in both World Wars and have since then specialized in making fabrics for security and protective workwear). The factory, which assembles my patterns
and makes the clothes, is called DMD France and they have been making specialized workwear for 28 years.
I’m just using their expertise. They bring strength and I bring elegance. I hope my designs and future collaborations will appeal as much to plumbers, engineers, hip-hop fans, dudes looking for a cool suit, or dad bods with baby puke on their shoulders.
PH: Where did you get this revolutionary idea ?
JM: Workwear is always tough and cool but rarely elegant.
I just see a completely different use for clothes
in comparison to big workwear companies. Elegance
for me is as important to a design as its longevity and when made with the workwear industry, it’s both affordable and durable. It’s a counter reaction to fast fashion flooding the market. We all participate in supporting this monstrous business and economy upholding bad quality, exploitation, tax havens, low wages, constant global transportations, who pollute land, air and sea. Not forgetting those brands take 80% of all advertising space and attention span of most humans during the day. This form of gargantuan avidity is perfectly represented in the painting of Goya: the titan Saturn (Cronus in Greek mythology) eating
his children. That is why my brand is called Hadès. The castrator Cronus, an avid cosmic monster, his children (Athena, Poseidon, Zeus, Hermès, Hadès) gather
their forces and kill him before he devours them.
Hadès means resistance and survival for me, nothing less. Its tough for any creative trying to find a customer or a place in today’s market. It is really more a form of urban guerrilla warfare and survival than just competition, marketing and design.
PH: You have three key products: the jacket, the blazer and the chino. Nothing more, nothing less. Why ?
JM: I make my own rules and business model. I don’t
want to waste time, energy and money by creating vast collections running after a carrot on a stick like the silly rabbit. I want to make few designs for men, also for women, perhaps for kids too. Just one design here and there and another one later. Take time, breathe, introduce, sell, distribute locally first and collaborate with other designers on another piece. Grow organically and do slow fashion.
I like classic things for my brand, just the essentials.
A blazer is timeless, the chino too. The trench is coming soon, the oxford shirt too. They are all useful classicsthat never go out of style. I want to make durable things. I’m not just expressing creativity through design. I’m proposing longevity, classic styles and accessible prices
PH: Where is this all happening and how ?
JM: I make all prototypes in Paris, digitalize them at Vetigraphe and then go to Lyon to DMD France with the prototype that we start assembling
and making ready for production. I did a Kickstarter campaign last year to propose the jacket and pants to see if anybody was interested.
To my surprise we got a lot of orders from all over the world, from eleven countries to be exact. That was fun. Hadès is sold in a multi-brand concept store five minutes from where I live called La Botica on rue Bagnolet
in the 20th arrondissement with similar emerging brands. I also sell my clothes on my website www.hades-paris.fr and offer free delivery in Paris to anyone who wants to try the clothes at home or at work.
PH: Hades represents a new philosophy and business model, you say. What’s wrong with the fashion industry of today ?
JM: Many things can be said about what is wrong.
Avidity is on top of my list. I’m just concentrating on basic things I find are sensible. I don’t do collections for each season. I try to do something that works and doesn’t need changes, that’s hard to do too. I don’t want to use noble and delicate fabrics but high-tech breathable and super tough ones. I buy them locally because that way I’m certain there are no toxic treatments in the specific fabric
I use for my clothes. I care about that. I’m a nice guy
like that. I don’t try to compete with creativity because
it comes naturally with usefulness and simplicity. I simplify everything: the model, the fabrication process, the delivery, the cost and the message. I don’t put crazy margins
on the things I sell. I like when the price is correct,
when it’s durable and fair. Accessible but not ridiculous cheap like the fast fashion industry. I make eight sizes because humans come in all sizes and shape.
I don’t do just three sizes for skinny people. I make clothes that are long lasting and tough because clothes should be used aggressively. I make clothes you can put in the washing machine at any temperature because in the real world that’s what’s up. I make elegant clothes because if you look at pictures from the early 20th century every hard working individual was elegant. Elegance is a sign of dignity. I have always been rather poor so the need to be elegant was necessary for me in order to be taken seriously. It has always been like that throughout human history. In my second favorite play from Shakespeare, Hamlet act1 scene 3, Polonius gives some excellent advice to his son Laertes before saying goodbye. One advice goes like this: «Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy; For the apparel oft proclaims the man, And they in France of the best rank and station Are of a most select and generous chief in that».
PH: Would you rather be a security guard in Reykjavik or a plumber in Paris ?
JM: Definitely a plumber in Paris and wear Hadès. Imagine a world where a plumber is fixing a leak under a sink and his pants are so well cut that you can’t see his ass crack when he bends down. That’s a real revolution right there.
PH: Tell me about that time you set your clothing on fire to be sure they are indestructible.
JM: In the Hadès video campaign for Kickstarter in order
to underline that we use super strong fabrics we tried putting it on fire to show how resistant it is and used it in the video. Of course after some takes we eventually did manage to burn a hole through the jacket. That’s normal. It’s not impervious to fire, neither to bullets, dragons or stupidity. But to prove a point I used a wow factor that worked really well, and you are still talking about it today. Using fabrics who are flaming resistant are for petroleum platforms mostly. Inflammable fabrics are treated with
all kinds of stuff that I don’t recommend for the urban lifestyle. I use non-treated fabrics because it’s better for your skin. The clothes I make are not going to protect you from a fire. I don’t use specific security fabrics against fire. But they do not catch fire quickly either.