Jean-Loup LeBlanc-Roy, 27, grew up in rural Quebec, just north of the United States borderline. LeBlanc-Roy has managed to harness the intangibility of the French-Canadian mindset as his core inspiration for St Henri Library. By drawing from the unique blend of European and American aspects that contribute to the multi-faceted Quebecois identity, LeBlanc-Roy incorporates a certain appreciation for the complexity of his culture that comes through loud and clear in St Henri's visual aesthetic.
Established only in 2017, the namesake of a predominantly blue-collar neighbourhood just south of downtown Montréal, St Henri has come a long way in just a few short years. The underground brand has been recognized internationally, from London Fashion Week to features in Japan's most popular fashion publication, Senken Shimbun, the previously underrepresented French-Canadian voice in fashion has been brought to the forefront of the industry. LeBlanc-Roy, Creative Director of St Henri, shared with us his thoughts on the brand as a representation of mixed philosophies and the road to self-discovery.
SV: How would you describe what St Henri is about? What does it stand for?
JL: St-Henri is a contemporary expression of the Canadian and Quebecois culture from an international standpoint. St-Henri aims to offer a timeless, unique, well thought and comfortable wardrobe.
SV: How did St Henri come into being?
JL: A series of coincidence.
SV: Who is St Henri for?
JL: A dreamer, and someone who truly appreciate clothes... and fashion, as an art form, not a system.
SV: How is ‘masculinity’ presented in St Henri’s identity?
JL: St-Henri aims to present a version of masculinity where toughness and delicateness merge.
SV: How is French-Canadian culture reflected in St Henri’s aesthetic?
JL: Through seasonal stories inspired by fragments of the culture which will then inform the collections.
SV: Counter-culture seems like something that’s really integral to St Henri’s identity. How do you think Quebecois culture and counterculture mesh? Where do you see them intersect?
JL: I think culture and counter-culture are intertwined. Counterculture in Quebec is present everywhere.
SV: A lot of your stuff has some serious European/Parisian influences, crossed with your typical Quebecois blue-collar, day labourer vibe. The Automne/Hiver 2019 collection is a prime example of that dichotomy. Are any of these creative influences personal to you?
JL: I grew up in the countryside of Quebec on the border of Vermont. It is pick-up truck, hardware store & hunting country. It is part of my DNA. I then moved to Montreal, Hong Kong and finally London where I live now and I love. I believe I’m a city person with country roots and that will probably reflect in all my projects.
SV: your Printemps/Été 2020 collection is thematically inspired by commune life; spreading a message of spirituality and acceptance of counterculture. Where did the inspiration for this latest collection come from?
JL: There are a few sources.
Firstly, I started conceptualizing the collection while visiting Thailand which is filled with spirituality. I believe this influenced my mood while starting the collection.
Secondly, there is this romanced vision of the Montreal Parc du Mont Royal’s Tam-Tams community that I was exploring which I think is unique to the city but often overlooked or snubbed.
Finally, I believe it is a personal response to an overdose of technology, data, gloomy world politics, stimulus, etc. A sort of naive “get back to the basics” expression.
There’s quite a bit of American influences throughout St Henri’s collections, despite being born of Quebecois and European subtext.
SV: How do American influences find their way into this brand?
JL: French Canada influenced America’s roots and America influenced and is influencing Quebec’s development. It’s an organic flow of information. I think unconsciously these influences echo in my work.
SV: What do you think French-Canadians don’t understand about themselves?
JL: After 4 years of living in the UK, I realize how similar the British personality is to the French-Canadian. I think a lot of French-Canadians are aware of their French roots but overlook the influence that the Brits had on them. There is a certain British politeness, toughness, cynicism, self-derision and awkwardness that is embedded in the French-Canadian temperament.
SV: What books, music, movies or TV shows do you most associate with St Henri?
JL: Too many, but to stay on a French Canadian thematic I would say Mon Oncle Antoine [directed] by Claude Jutra, the music of Harmonium and Marie Davidson (listening to “Chasing the Light” right now) and the literature of Saint-Denys Garneau and Jack Kerouac.
SV: What’s next for St Henri?
JL: We want to rethink the way to showcase our collections. We want to have more fun and be more independent of the fashion system. We are working on a new brand called Dogspeed and a few other projects to diversify our offering.