From his Alpine homeland, in askew landscapes of lakes and mountain peaks, the novelist Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz once wrote: “Oh, the haunting of a land one carries within as we are no longer there (…) Is it because I have fiercely loved it that I wished to return?” Childhood friends John Dunand and Sami Cherrad, founding members of the brand CREST, also ventured far out to reach that same conclusion: one does not escape the haunting Alpine landscapes. Yet, they have roamed all the way from Brighton to Montréal with their collections in mind, inspired by the Japanese styles of A Bathing Ape since their teenage years. They needed to be equipped for such an adventure: Sami through business school, John through fashion design. Of this lengthy initiatory journey, they have learned and perfected their craft and established rules, practically dogmas. Enriched through their learning process, decisive encounters along the way and knowledge to be either applied or revisited, they closed the chapter of youth and returned to their native Alps, in Haute-Savoie. To create, away from all pressure, the clothes they always dreamt of wearing. CREST was born in 2020. “From the onset, we held values birthed out of our education. We wanted to create a French brand in France. I understood the beauty of our land and realized what I was losing as I left”, said Sami. “My parents awakened me to the taste of beauty, curiosity, and meticulous craftsmanship. I looked for these values in music and fashion”, continued John.
Haute-Savoie and savoir-faire. Here, traditions know a hard life, they need a thick skin. For generations, John’s family business lied halfway between culture and agriculture. Around the family home, ancestral fields packed with rare vegetation showcase this life of labour and tradition. Inside the house, paintings, books and mountains of discs are being shared and transmitted, beyond the absurd divide of time. Both urban and outdoor bred, coolly insolent and designed for all generations, John and Sami’s collections logically follow this open trans-generational mindset. They showcase their love of meticulous work, passion for noble fabrics and their respect towards Nature which, here, is ever-present and simply cannot be overlooked. John warns us from the start: “We do not produce streetwear. Nature is a constant influence; certain parts around here appear surreal.” “Our countryside is inextricable from CREST,” continues Sami. “We have no provincial complexes. It so happens to be our strength. Nature, harsh at times, asks of us comfort and efficiency in our clothing.”
Music naturally infiltrated CREST’s DNA. From the most arid folk originating from the American mountains to the most exuberant hip-hop, John and Sami listened to it all, filtering it all. Without necessarily knowing of this frenetic sound quest, many musicians have been seen wearing proudly the CREST collections. Yet, this is no rock, hip-hop nor pop fashion line: it is one nourished, even gorged with thousands of discs. You know, these faithful companions that tame the loneliness of adolescence. Amongst them, the albums of the American band Midlake had a major impact on their education. Great is their pride today as they successfully convinced their renowned singer Tim Smith to offer them, as a manifest video, his premiere on a new song. On the creators’ website, each item of clothing is as such presented with the song that best incarnates it, and has even perhaps defined its lines: we may encounter the bands Pixies, The Cure, Damon Albarn, DJ Shadow or even Curren$y.
Whilst its musical influences are global, CREST remains a local activist. Since 2020, John and Sami tirelessly used family-owned workshops to assemble their clothes which redefine masculine fashion, from high-end lines revisited by turbulences and boldness, both vestiges of their not-so-distant teenage years. Fabrics originate mostly from Japan for their mixture of comfort, rawness and aesthetics. Yet, their processing, cut and choices are conceived and materialized in this Alpine region which demands of the collections humility, comfort for all terrains, and for everyone. Traditional yet out of the box. Classic yet eccentric. Bold yet far from flashy. CREST tells a beautiful story: that of John and Sami’s. Two children accepting to grow yet not to age; that is the price at which wonderment may be negotiated. That which makes every collection a delightful enigma: to be both out of time, unreal and still fiercely anchored into the present. John: “We look for simplicity, authenticity, almost rusticity. Inspired by the beautiful chalets of mountain peaks which have neither running water nor electricity. True comfort lies in the warmth of these landscapes.” CREST is not an experimentation open to one particular caste or closed circle, but an experience of wellbeing, durability, voluptuousness open to all. “The old & the young…” sung Midlake.
Words by JD Beauvallet for CREST