Sylvie Facon is known throughout the world as the designer who tells stories with her dresses. Self-taught, this Arras-born fashion designer creates magnificent, strange and beautiful dresses, unique and magical. Her multifaceted inspiration is drawn in part from her home city. Encounter with an ambassador for Arras, inspired, demanding and passionate. .

I head for her atelier in the Rue du Presbytère Sainte-Croix, established in a pretty eighteenth century building in typical Arras style. A wonderful place to spend a night or two in her charming guest rooms, “Les Dentelles du Presbytère”.

“My dresses express harmony emotion. It’s not totally steampunk, not totally fantasy, not totally fairytale, but a little of all of them.”

In Arras, at the centre of the world

The day we met, she had just returned from Iran.

At the request of a prestigious haute couture school, she had been passing on her know-how to forty or so fashion designers. In a splendid room in the Golestan Palace, a young Iranian woman is wearing a dress in the colours of Arras. On the bodice, paintings depict the Flemish Baroque style buildings on the Grand’Place and the Place des Héros (the House of the 3 Leopards) and the Belfry. In other words, how to export local architecture and history to the four corners of the globe.

“I am increasingly keen on introducing the world to the city I love; this urge for advocacy is my common thread,” explains the fashion designer, who only really set up independently 10 years ago, after a 30-year first career in the social field.

It is a throng of multiple inspirations, not limited to the bodice, lace, the Pre-Raphaelite  movement, steampunk, nature or even Arras – although it was the trigger  because I started out making dresses for local festivals.”

After an acclaimed début exhibition at the Arras Museum of Fine Arts, word of mouth did the rest. Today, she is much sought after to stage catwalk shows and exhibitions near and far: the Chantilly Lace Museum, the Louvre-Lens, the Abbey of Vaucelles (Jardin des Merveilles exhibition in 2018), the Caudry Lace Museum and also in Orléans, Fontainebleau, Bourges etc. Because Sylvie Facon creates much more than mere dresses; they are true works of art.

Pictures were reductive; I wanted to tackle work that was truly visual. That’s how I came to start painting on dresses, which became a base just like canvas. Universal beauty is my essential desire. The creation of something beautiful, pleasing, balanced, harmonious, gentle, luminous, poetic… whether you are English, Russian, French or American, that speaks to everyone.  My dresses express harmony, emotion. It’s not totally steampunk, not totally fantasy, not totally fairytale, but a little of all of them. There is something indefinable that touches people deeply.”  

Limitless creativity

Her series of Arras dresses echoes this boundless creativity.

Her passion for beautiful materials (silk, lace) is a true manifesto for time-honoured and local know-how. “I have a partnership with the lace manufacturer Jean Bracq in Caudry. I’m fascinated by the know-how involved in lace-making, for its quality, its beauty, its colours, its fineness. It deserves to be protected and preserved.

It was no fewer than 47 metres of fabric, an absolute splendour. And so was born the telling of the story of Arras in textile. These stories and the meticulous compositions require of Sylvie between 150 and 350 hours of work on each dress. 

« Un tableau c’était réducteur, je voulais aborder un véritable travail de plasticienne. C’est ainsi que j’ai commencé à peindre sur une robe, devenue un support, comme peut l’être une toile. La beauté universelle, c’est ma volonté essentielle.

On the skirt, musical scores create a never-before-seen textile symphony. Arras Cathedral formed the ideal backdrop to show it off to best effect. For the dress encrusted with illustrations of Arras, and featuring a central painting showing a nineteenth century market scene, Sylvie chose the Grand’Place and the Belfry.

The newt challenge ? A dress dedicated to ceramics and to the Bleu d’Arras porcelain. The latest declaration of love for her cherished city.

Follow her on Instagram

With almost 45,000 Instagram followers, fans and customers from Singapore to New York, from Los Angeles to Moscow, today Sylvie Facon is known throughout the world. Every one of her posts creates a buzz.

Sylvie Facon in practice