Artist Profile: Theo Charpentier Threads his Vision into his Work

Local Clothing Designer Talks About his Brand, One & Only

Charpentier hard at work on one of his pieces. Photo Gabrielle Vendette
Some of Charpentier’s handiwork. Photo Gabrielle Vendette

About a quarter of the way through our interview, Theo Charpentier, local clothing designer and entrepreneur, stopped our conversation to show me a piece he had brought.

He pulled out a large, black bomber jacket and turned it around to display the intricate handiwork of flower embroidery that covered the entire back of the garment. The flowers were reminiscent of Japanese cherry blossoms and were all delicately threaded by hand with pink and purple hues by Charpentier himself.

He explained that he was inspired by florals for his new collection because they represent the arrival of something new, like this collection, but also because they fit well into the Montreal context as the snow melts and spring knocks on our doors.

“There’s not much more to it than people having a long winter, and waiting for spring in a symbolic way means nothing more than to blossom out of a long winter,” he said.

Charpentier is the owner and creative mind behind his clothing brand, One & Only, which launched a little over a year ago.

Trying to explain what One & Only is would be like trying to explain Charpentier’s artistic vision; it is vast and it is profound. He spoke about the philosophy behind his brand, how the idea and the execution intersect at the creation of the clothing articles, and how the brand and the clothes themselves are a means to an end for Charpentier who has a far-reaching vision for the company.

Charpentier wants to combat the idea of fast fashion. Therefore he divides his brand into two parts: the ready-to-wear collection and the one-of-a-kind pieces that Charpentier creates himself.

For the one-of-a-kind pieces, Charpentier goes to thrift shops around Montreal collecting different staple articles of clothing, and then brings them back to his small sewing studio in his apartment where he adds embroidery and other details to the pieces to make them distinctly One & Only.

This is where idea and execution intersect; Charpentier also wanted to use florals in collection because they represent the rebirth of the article of clothing.

“This is a way for me to represent that on clothing. The idea of the clothing at the base of it is taking old clothing, inviting new design and new ideas into it, and the result of that being a whole new potential for that piece of clothing and a whole new story for it, and that’s kind of the idea behind the symbolic of” the florals,” he explained.

“I would tell you about my five year and my 10 year plans, but you would think I’m crazy,” he stated.

With the grandeur behind Charpentier’s ideas and the confidence with which he delivers them, you could easily mistake him for an arrogant artist, plagued by people who don’t understand him.

But Charpentier is acutely aware of this fact. He does not want to be the trope of the misunderstood artist, so he approaches his creativity in a pragmatic way, by using the clothing brand as a material thing that can be used to carry his philosophy to other people. Complex, yes, but not entirely far-fetched.

Prior to committing himself entirely to his company, Charpentier attended the Cégep du Vieux-Montreal for four years, first in social sciences and then in audiovisual recording. He dropped out in search of a more creative and stimulating way to live.

“Me being in school, sitting on a bench, did not relate to the ambitions I had as an individual,” he explained.

Despite many people’s assumptions, Charpentier says he was doing very well in school before dropping out. He spins mindlessly in his desk chair, looking up, as he recounts the realization he had. While school had always been his comfort zone, stepping out of it created so many more opportunities for him.

“The simple idea of me wasting my time and money on something that doesn’t fulfill me is something that I wasn’t willing to do anymore.”

He mostly works alone in the conception of his clothes and weaves in a little piece of his vision into every stitch. There is thought behind every detail and there is intention behind every action.

Sound engineer Roberto Viglione has known Charpentier for almost five years now. He helps Charpentier with the music and the sound production for the company’s runway shows, and describes Charpentier as being someone who is honest and sincere.

Through One & Only, Charpentier hopes to create a community of artists who can work together and inspire each other, and Viglione believes that Charpentier is just the man for the job.

“Through all his artistic projects, he’s been able to include a lot of people and a lot of other artists from the scene,” Viglione said. “Theo is going to be another one of those entrepreneurs that’s going to help push art and push the relationships in this city regarding art.”