The Romantic world of Michelle Hébert


Recently I was at an Everlane dinner with my friend Caroline {pictured here} to launch their new very cute boatneck shirts. Caroline and I were talking about our next shoot together and that we should do something totally different from the Everlane campaign photos she’s all over the web in.

I’ve been photographing her for years now, there is just something about her face I love. Plus she is an amazing jewelry designer, an all around great human being, and a really fun time.  At that same time my friend Bess, who is an incredible floral designer {she does the Vanity Fair Oscar Party!} was coming in from L.A. and wanted to collaborate on something like our previous shoots. She recently met this L.A. based fashion designer Michelle Hébert and sent me some images of her dresses which I found insanely dark and romantic. So Bess brought the gowns and flowers, Caroline brought her beautiful face, makeup artist Eddie Hernandez used all rose scented Chantecaille products and together we brought the gowns to life.


Once the pieces were on the body we could really see the creativity of the designs. What’s crazy is that this designer is 24 and self taught! Obviously one day she will be winning Oscars for costume design or working for one of her favorite fashion houses such as Alexander McQueen.  I had to know more about this girl out in L.A. hand sewing fantasies in her parents garage so I interviewed her to see what is in her mind that makes these moments.

Describe the idea behind this flower, lace and tulle designed dress:

Michelle Hébert: One of my early pieces and a design created to pay homage to the late Alexander McQueen. It almost felt collaborative as I set out to use symbols we both admired such as flowers, but to take that and design something that was my own. Materials: Lace, Flower Appliqués, Chiffon, Beads, and Tulle. 


Who is your muse, who is the woman you are designing for?

– My muse is a women who is beautiful in a quiet way. She appreciates what others would dismiss. She does not demand nor expect attention, but possesses humility & goodness attracts it. 

Your clothes are incredibly romantic, is this intentional or something that comes from within you? Why design romantic gowns? What is your story concerning that?

– I’ve come to learn that I’m a person who feels quite deeply. I would say my style and many designs came naturally to me from within. I’ve realized I struggle when I force myself to create, let alone purposefully portray a look or emulate a trend. I’ve always been either very passionate about something, or neutral and uninterested. As a child I once had a unrequited crush on just one boy that lasted 5 years! And once I found Fashion Design to be my medium of choice, it’s been a 14 year long love of mine. I am a dreamer and I do easily romanticize and fantasize of things that are impractical or not of this world. 


Describe the idea behind this red dress design:

This piece was meant to embody pure fire. I see fire as unpredictable in its movement with flames not always well contained. It’s raw and inconsistent which came through when I was illustrating, then eventually while creating this piece. Materials: Distressed Chiffon, Acrylic Paint, Netting, Wire, and Adhesives. 

Where do you source your materials?

– For fabric I go to the Downtown Los Angeles Fabric District, for everything else a Hardware store and the internet! However… on occasion I’ve gone right outside my front door to find materials. I once made a dress of twigs and spent a few days collecting all the sticks I could in the neighborhood near my parents home. I received many silent stares as I walked around in my pajamas collecting twigs in a grocery bag.


You make each of your dresses by hand, correct? How long does it take to make something like the red dress?

– Yes, each evening/art design has been a labor of love which can sometimes take at minimum 12 hours, but normally 30 – 60+. There is lots of strategic planning, basic construction, and hand sewing involved.

Where does your vision come from?

– It’s difficult to track as sometimes I’m sitting around just paying attention to my thoughts and *BAM!* Ideas overwhelm me. Or it will be at complete random when I least expect it such as while staring at a spackled wall or stain seeing shapes and patterns. One thing I can say for certain is back when I was a young teen, rather than searching for music I would spend hours looking through magazines or surfing the internet staring at pictures of designs and art. I accumulated 4 computer folders with 300+ saved images in each of them and hoarded many torn out editorials. I sometimes feel that this was necessary for me to build a catalog of design possibilities in my head, as well as realize what has already been done so that I can strive to innovate opposed to duplicate.


Tell me about the white and gold dress below:

This piece was made for a presentation at the Music Center of Los Angeles in honor of the ballet “Les Nuits” (Based on 1001 Arabian Nights), and was semi inspired by what people covet most as many themes within the tales tended to center around grandiose desires and wealth. Materials: Chiffon, Netting, Wire, Adhesives, and Gold Foil.


Favorite materials to work with?

– I have a soft spot for chiffon, the seductive and mysterious quality of lace, I love the light airiness of netting, if I ever chose a heavy fabric it’s normally dull satin, and I have the most fun when I use strange materials such as plastics, wire, adhesives, and paint.


Your pieces are very haunting, where is your mind when you are designing? 

– It’s hard to say myself, I tend to work a lot off of my mood and feelings while knowingly being drawn to life, imperfection, fragility, struggle, transformation, creation, growth, decay, and lastly the subtly disturbing. I design in a way that when an idea strikes me, it’s truly like lightning, It gives me chills. What I create must resonate somewhere deep down I haven’t fully understood.


Tell me about this black feathered gown:

I wanted to create a piece that appeared seamless with the wearer an example of my attempt was with the sleeves. I was trying to make model seem as if feathers were growing out of her skin. Materials: Pheasant Feathers, Synthetic Matted Fur, Netting, and Adhesives.


I asked Michelle to fill in the blanks:

My favorite artist is… The Earth! It’s masterpiece being the many surroundings and life that sits atop it.  

The best way I express myself is…. Visually.

I am most inspired by… emotion.

An ideal day for me is…. stress free with those I adore while eating ice cream.

Beauty to me is… the imperfect and unconventional. 

I wish people appreciated more… of what happens behind the curtain, not just what’s at face value.

I wish more women…. were in positions of influence.

2015 for me will be… pivotal.

 I am most passionate about… people, life.

I am happiest when…. I’m surrounded by “good”. Good people, good events, good places.. and most importantly good food.

Love is… that warm secure feeling when all seems right.


Peak behind the scenes here!

Caroline Ventura models gowns by Michelle Hébert || Floral designs by Bess Wyrick || Makeup by Eddie Hernandez for Chantecaille

8 thoughts on “The Romantic world of Michelle Hébert

  1. I fell in love with these gowns when I saw them for the first time briefly on your snapchats, and have since been anxiously awaiting this post!

    Such beautiful and raw gowns, you can so easily see that the inspiration comes from somewhere so pure and full of emotion… and I love that they’re made with such unconventional materials, too! Absolutely stunning, and so much talent at such a young age, I’m so inspired!

    You’ve captured the gowns beautifully, Jamie! <3

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