Monsieur Pierre François Lacenaire was a 19th-century poet, dandy and high-society criminal. His life was explored in the cult French period movie Children of Paradise, in which he falls in love with a beautiful young woman called Garance. It therefore seems apt that Monsieur Lacenaire, a new men's knitwear label, was established in Paris last year by a law and management graduate turned designer named Ms Garance Broca. "He was a dandy villain with a free spirit," says Ms Broca of the original Monsieur Lacenaire. "I like his French cynicism and dark sense of humour. It inspired me to make something masculine and chic, but also daring and without compromise."
A self-confessed knit freak, Ms Broca worked in product development at the luxury fashion houses Balmain, Hermès and Joseph before deciding to launch her own line. "The idea of creating my own company was close to my heart for a long time," the designer explains. "I had a real passion for knitwear, and the idea of a label for men seemed obvious to me." While the designs are witty and innovative, but constantly underpinned by an indomitable sense of French chic, it is the quality that really sets Monsieur Lacenaire apart. "I put a strong emphasis on the materials," Ms Broca explains. "As my background is in the luxury world, it is very important to me." Using fine Peruvian alpaca, Egyptian cotton and Italian merino wool, Monsieur Lacenaire knits are handmade either in France, just outside of Paris, or in Peru, where local artisans can meet the brand's high standards. Cardigans feature high-quality wood or horn fasteners, and for future collections Ms Broca is experimenting with lesser-known fibres such as camel and yak.
As for Monsieur Lacenaire himself, the law eventually caught up with him: after being charged with murder and spending his entire trial talking about his own literary works, he was sent to the guillotine in 1836. Monsieur Lacenaire the brand, however, is unlikely to suffer a similar fate, as it continues to go from strength to strength, defining a contemporary attitude in luxury knitwear. As a final note, fans of the label's knitted varsity jacket from last season can rejoice in the fact that it will be available next season in an array of new colours.