Interview: Christian L’Enfant Roi

April 27, 2012

Montreal-based Christian Deslauriers came to our attention back in January like a jolt with his considered, beautiful menswear line Christian L'Enfant Roi. Deslauriers started the line back in 2010, building L'Enfant Roi quietly, creating an entire universe of soft, flourishing, boyish clothes in incredible color palates that now, four seasons deep, feel like some of the most intelligently tailored, subversively androgynous men's clothing around. You wouldn't think that a T-shirt, saggy pants and light scarf could look so cool, but Deslauriers plays with the heritage of French boyhood and it all feels so romantic and nostalgic but never retro. We talked to Deslauriers about Montreal fashion scene and some of his favorite, expensive influences.

Are you originally from Montreal? No, I grew up in Ottawa, just outside of Montreal I guess. About an hour and a half away. But I moved here for school.

Montreal is not known as a fashion capital. Has it been difficult starting a clothing line there? It's hard in Montreal only because we are off the radar. That's good, creatively speaking, there's a lot of inspiration here, rent is cheap and food is cheap, there are some good sides. So starting a business was just logical to me because I could, technically. The only thing, as I said, is that we're off the radar, so we have to work twice as hard to get noticed. I think eventually you just have to branch out. I'm hoping to go more towards the Scandinavian market.

Why did you decide to call it L’Enfant Roi? Other than the fact that it's a French-speaking province, I think a French name always has a little bit more prestige in general. When people can't pronounce it, I think it's kind of funny. It’s an expression, un enfant roi. A spoiled brat, essentially. Generally, that's how older people describe our generation. I don't think I'm a spoiled brat, but I definitely cater to a bunch of spoiled brats. In a good way! People can really identify with that name, and I think our generation—we are kind of arrogant, in a good way. Just by social networking and stuff like that—taking pictures of ourselves and putting them everywhere. I really cater to that type of boy, generally.

Do you always use the word "boy" to describe your customer? Yes, I usually say boy as opposed to man. The idea was that it was kind of like a society type thing, or like an elite club of boys. Dead Poets Society or something like that.

Would you say it's dandy-ish? It is. I think, at the beginning, it was a very dandy image that I had because of the name and everything. It looks expensive, anyway.

You don't mind a little bit of elitism? No I don't. I think it's fine. The opulence of it all. Fashion is expensive, let's not kid ourselves. The image of what boys were—smoking in bars and private clubs. Just the idea of it. I can imagine what it smelled like to be in one of these opium dens, I'm thinking of Yves Saint-Laurent in Paris and Morocco in the ’70s.

Are there literary references that inspire you? Sure. Jean Genet is an obvious one. I don't read a ton of French literature, but I grew up with the idea of it, and all of that early 20th-century exoticism is here.

There’s also something very soft and gentle about everything that you do. Definitely. I use silks and cottons and natural fibers—I tend to gravitate towards that. Also there's a comfort in what I do, whether it be the silhouette or the fabric itself which brings the softness, I think I really enjoy that kind of look on a guy. But I think, generally, I dress a lot of manly dudes. In New York it would be more like the kids that you would see in Brooklyn and not the ones you see in Chelsea. In Montreal, it would be the Mile End. It's a mixture of guys that are able to be soft-looking, but they're still guys. That’s the guy I like.

Interview: Christian L’Enfant Roi