Océane Philippe's Instagram is like stepping into an alternate version of history-- a version of the Rococo era where lingerie was on display and Hello Kitty was a celebrated cultural icon, Rococo for the social media age. This isn't retrofuturism; this is futuristic retro-- her style is a delightful reimagination of the past, with feminist undertones.
In some sense, her photos also redefine the present. Her self portraits are chalked to the brim with girlish symbolism, giving visual weight to objects that are usually dismissed as shallow or superficial, like hair ribbons and pink throw pillows. She poses defiantly, confidently, before the viewer, challenging them to brush off her power.
She points to thrift stores as a major source of inspiration, and that seems like her approach to her work as well-- sifting through the past to find gems that she can adapt to fit her own needs and philosophies, the way that one might pilfer through racks at a consignment store hoping to stumble on designer pieces. Even her Instagram feed bears resemblance to an overstuffed-in-the-best-way charity shop, where porcelain statues of cats and Precious Moments memorabilia line the walls and magic is in the air.
Her shop, Belle Lurette, possesses the same radical self-expression and subversive feminism as her personal style. Featuring panty purses, corset socks, and Rococo-meets-Y2K bags, Belle Lurette manages to live up to its name ("a very long time ago") while also feeling thoroughly modern, like Océane herself.
Who are your biggest inspirations and what lessons have they taught you?
Actually I think my main inspirations are thrift stores. When I go there I’m like in a trance, it’s so inspiring to be surrounded by so many fabrics, clothes shapes from many various eras. When I need a creative boost I just go on errands to charity shops and search for unique pieces.
What work are you most proud of?
My personal favorite is the mini purse socks. It’s just all what I’m into: miniature accessories and legs
Why do you find yourself attracted to Rococo-era aesthetics?
I’ve always been drawn to details and over-the-top designs. I think it comes from the fact that my mother loves collecting stuff. In that house I was surrounded by figures and miniature objects: pink toilets, chicken figurines displayed in the kitchen...this is what I grew up with haha. I just love how in that era everything is an excuse to be ornamental, how fantasy and what may be seen as frivolous is celebrated. I feel very connected to it.
Why did you decide to start your shop, Belle Lurette?
I’ve been creating accessories and clothes for my own wardrobe since quite some time now, and often my friends would tell me I should sell them. I first started Belle Lurette as an Etsy shop, selling my first handmade earrings and collars. Since August, I reopened my shop, this time selling garments and I’m very happy with the way it’s growing. I really want to take the brand further and tell more stories through my creations.
Do you view your work as a celebration or a subversion of hyper-feminine aesthetics (or both)?
I think both are linked. I create from what I know, what I’ve experienced as a girl and a woman. I love playing with the cute, the girly, and adding a twist to it. That is something intimate you would not expect, that goes beyond the polished image of femininity. Showing what is not supposed to be seen in public from a woman, such as lingerie. Like, turning a panty into a purse. I think the image itself is quite powerful.
Using a metaphor, how would you describe your creative process?
I’d refer to it as a secret diary. Intimate and sometimes hard to write in, but the outcome shares a personal story.
How did you develop your personal style? How has your style changed over time?
It all started when I got into Japanese fashion when I was about 12. I was mindblown to discover that some people could dress so freely in real life. I always loved fashion but I was too scared to stand out from the crowd. It really changed my perspective. From that, I got more into lolita fashion and I mainly wore that style. When I was around 16, I discovered thrift shopping, and I totally rebuilt my wardrobe with mainly 1€ second hand clothes I was buying there. It enabled me to play with fashion even more, since it was cheap I could just buy anything and experiment with it. Now I just love to mix everything up. Different eras, styles, brands...that’s the most liberating.
What's been the most transformative experience of your life?
I think dressing up is what transformed me. Thanks to fashion I came out of my shell, met people and found what I love the most to do in life.
How would you describe your relationship with social media?
I would say being on Instagram had more of a positive impact on me. It really helped me with the way I see myself. I used to be afraid of posting even a single selfie on the internet haha. I’ve really noticed how my confidence grew over the years thanks to taking pics and posting regularly. It can be seen as something narcissistic to some, but actually it’s hard work to put your image out there.
Also, it is a great way for me to treasure memories and keep a record of how I’m evolving. It’s like an archive of all my outfits and of what I’m into over time.
But most of all it’s the best way to show off your work as a creator. I’ve met so many people and had opportunities I never imagined would happen. Of course it can become overwhelming, like everyone I tend to compare myself and feel the pressure of not being creative enough but I'm learning to let it go and just do my thing.
What's your most prized possession?
I really searched hard but I couldn’t find one item I like more than another. Of course some have more meaning to me, but I tend to get emotionally attached to every item I have ever owned. They all have their own energies, their stories. I easily cry when I lose something, or when I have to get rid of it. Like I would love to sell vintage clothes, but I know I would end up keeping everything for me. It’s just really hard for me to let them go. It’s a real issue, I just accumulate too much stuff, but I guess it’s part of my “rococo obsession” haha!