The French fashion designer on sharing her pregnancy with her twin sister and taking her label stateside
“I’m not a big fan of fashion,” says Alix Petit. It’s not quite what you would expect from the leading young French designer, but she’s adamant. “I never go to fashion shows or fashion parties. I cannot live a fashion lifestyle.” Instead, she says, “I like to be in the middle of nature with my fiancé and my family.” Which is precisely where she is right now, eight and a half months pregnant in the South of France, waiting for her baby to arrive.
Petit launched her brand Heimstone in 2007 aged 23. She had been to college, worked as a knitwear designer for Michel Klein for a year, and then, in a burst of youthful audacity, decided to go it alone. Klein had been an education “because it was a small company but not super-organised,” so she had a hand in everything visiting the factories, supervising production. Her vision for Heimstone was to make clothes for “cool girls”, off-trend, timeless pieces that could transcend seasons. “For me, it’s very important to wear clothes that you can keep.” And as testament to that, women regularly come into the store in Paris saying they’re still wearing pieces from her first collection.
Paris is Heimstone’s home, but Petit now lives in New York and hopes to launch the brand in the US. She adores the country, has travelled across it, loves the way everything is possible there (while in France “they always say no”) and takes inspiration from its women. “The girls aren’t afraid of anything, they mix prints and different styles.” The plan is, hopefully, to open a store in New York but not for another year or two. The business essentially runs itself in Paris, but it will take time to build up the brand in the US and anyway, there’s a baby on its way.
Pregnancy has been a breeze for Petit so far, and perhaps inevitably, it’s been spent entirely clad in Heimstone. Long before she thought about starting a family, Petit made casual dresses a central element of her collections: “You know, when you don’t want to get too dressed up, but you have to be dressed prettily… I have a lot of dresses for this sort of occasion: comfortable, a little large… for me, it’s like being in pyjamas.” When she announced her pregnancy people kept telling her to design a special maternity collection, but “seriously, I don’t know which other styles I’d do!” Aside from the dresses, she wears her fiance’s trousers or leggings and a Heimstone knitted jumper or printed shirt over the top. Maternity wear never appealed: “When you’re pregnant you don’t want to turn into, “I’m a pregnant girl so I can only wear pregnancy clothes”.
The pregnancy will soon be over, though, and then there’s a new reality to absorb. Petit plans to return to New York in the autumn and keep a hand in the business in Paris she talks to the team there for two hours every morning and then lets them get on with it. She knows she’ll want to take it easy at first, but “I love to work so I cannot picture my life without working at all!” She’s lucky: round the corner from her in New York lives her twin, who, in one of those miraculous twin synchronies, has just had a baby too. “She’ll be able to help a lot.”
The sisters’ children will be five weeks apart, growing up almost as twins themselves. It wasn’t planned, “but for me it’s almost normal,” says Petit. “We have always been two in life.” She thinks they’ll only realise quite how special and strange the experience was when they look back at the photographs in a few years time and see themselves lying on a bed, showing off their bumps. In the meantime, the amazement of strangers has had to remind them how unusual it is: “Some guys in a restaurant were like, oh my god, they’re twins and they’re pregnant together. That’s insane!” The process has been good preparation for life with a baby: Petit was there for her sister’s birth and has been helping her change nappies ever since. “So when my baby arrives,” she says, laughing, “I’m going to know everything.”
In Her Words
Hide the bump or show off the bump?
Embrace the bump!
Nine long months or nine joyous months?
Both. I’ve had an amazing pregnancy, it just feels long from five to seven months!
Are you a go-home-and-collapse-on-the-sofa pregnant woman, or a hyperactive-yoga-super-busy pregnant woman? (Or both?)
Definitely a hyperactive-yoga-super-busy woman!
What do you miss most while pregnant?
To go for a nice run, and to be able to bend over to do up my shoes...
One thing you couldn't live without while pregnant?
Fruit, I have needed to eat a huge amount of fruit everyday, since the beginning!
Preferred brands to wear while pregnant?
I have been wearing mainly my Heimstone regular clothes, and my fiance’s trousers! The only pregnancy piece I bought is a tight jersey overall from Moodkit, it’s amazing - sexy and comfortable!
Surprise pregnancy fact you've learned?
My baby is peeing in my belly!
Boy or girl?
We don¹t know yet! Surprise!
If your partner could carry the baby, would you let him?
Yes! I would look at him getting fat with a lot of pleasure!
Images of Alix Petit 8 months pregnant, at Heimstone store rue Cambon, wearing Heimstone SS14
Words by Sophie Elmhirst, Photography by Saskia Lawaks