It’s late July and Paris is buzzing. Not with the buzz of Fashion Week or other celebrations, it’s the start of the August summer holidays that has the city buzzing. There is an atypical strain in the Paris devil-may-care atmosphere, though not enough to deviate too much from the norm. It is Paris after all.
I’m sitting in Morgane Sézalory’s office. The founder of French fashion brand Sézane, like many other Parisians at the moment, is late for our interview due to loose connections before her summer plans begin. She has an annual summer party to organize and two little girls to take off on their vacations.
In her office, it’s easy to see what makes the founder of France’s first online fashion brand tick. The space is elegant yet accessible, comfortable yet elevated, textured yet clean—much like the clothes she designs for Sézane.
There are books neatly stacked throughout on a breadth of subjects, but they’re shelves of sorts not just for display, but it’s clear that Sézalory taps her fingers for inspiration. There are several books on James Barnor, a book on nudes by Matisse, heavy photos in Los Angeles and Las Vegas next to a text on African textiles, and there is a book on the Peggy Guggenheim Collection exhibition called Surrealism and Magic.
Being one of France’s most adored cult labels, known for femininity, dressability, desirability and – most importantly – contemporary accessibility, it’s curious how Sézalory translates its high-end inspiration into whimsical and whimsical designs. inspired by Sézane’s vintage.
“What I want in life is to put a little magic in everything. Because I can see it in everything. I think this is my gift,” says Sézalory when asked about these inspirations. “This is how I connect beauty and the highest art with the everyday, it’s this ability to see the magic in everything.”
Sézalory’s upbringing in fashion is anything but traditional. In fact, it’s not even formal. She left school at the age of 16 and chose not to pursue a university education. Instead, she started a business buying and selling high-quality vintage parts that she sold through e-Bay, which eventually developed into an online store called Les Composantes.
“I learned a lot about fashion through the old beauties I would sell. It was the best design school because when you have to rebuild or repair or fix a vintage piece, you see how it was made and you have to work with the intricate and small details,” says Sézalory.
Through her innate eye for the unique and artistic, Sézalory selected 100 pieces each month for Les Composantes and released them in what she called a monthly meeting that would sell out in minutes. It was a business that garnered her a legion of clients eagerly awaiting her latest picks, and it was also the predecessor to Sézane, which she launched in 2013. Today, Sézalory leads a team of 400 people spread across the offices of Sézane’s corporate and retail locations and she holds a coveted spot on the BoF 500, the definitive list of the world’s most influential fashion professionals.
Les Composantes helped Sézalory lay the foundations for her business strategy as well. She saw firsthand how, as her old business flourished, her customers’ frustration grew along with it – there just wasn’t enough supply to feed their hungry demand. The experience informed the realization that monthly drops of random, one-of-a-kind pieces did not fit a woman’s daily needs. So when she launched Sézane she continued to offer 12 drops a year, but with a much larger selection to satisfy the customer’s needs. It’s a concept that’s normal today, but she pioneered the practice when Sézalory started doing it more than 15 years ago.
“At the time, it was very unique. I was very honest about the season and the needs you have every month of the year at a time when most brands only released two big collections. You’re coming in February, when it’s still winter, and you’d find dresses and summer clothes.” She smiles with a slight nod. “Which was crazy.”
Her voice evokes a sense of pride in her practicality.
“Dégourdi,” she says. She goes on to explain: “It’s Dégourdi. I have two daughters and they always say this. ‘Oh mom, it’s going to be okay, you’re so desperate’.” It basically means finding a way to make things happen, a skill Sézalory says was encouraged by her family.
“I grew up with a lot of faith, but also with a lot of pragmatism. What my mom always wanted in life wasn’t for us to go to the best schools or have the best grades. We actually, because we were—my sister, my brother and I—were good at school, but my parents were simple, in a good way.
They come from a very humble family and lived with nothing but love when they were children, and they know how to do things with beauty and not much else which gave them a common sense about everything. And my mother wanted us to be happy and she wanted us to find our way, to find solutions. Dégourdi! To find a way, – she laughs.
In the founding of Sézane, Sézalory was the embodiment of this French word. She was self-taught, self-funded – and not to mention, young – and through her parents’ values and honoring her intuition (she says she does business more by picking up signals and intuition than relying on numbers alone) , she was able to build a business that spans the globe from Paris to New York with a host of pop-ups in major international cities. The latest of these pop-ups opened in San Francisco last week.
The stores, which are called apartments, aim to bring the essence of Paris to Sézane’s retail world by attracting the customer with interior design that brings a Parisian apartment to life. Located in the heart of San Francisco on Fillmore Street, the store brings together the Sézane universe of fall bags, jewelry, clothing and even a selection of menswear (Sézane’s spin-off line called Octobre Editions) with selected pieces from local businesses and artisans from San Francisco. for the ultimate marriage between the Left Bank and the West Bank.
Growth begs the question: how big is big? Where does Sézalory want Sézane to go? After all, not all fashion companies want to become Chanel. Many are happy to be at the level of a Dries Van Noten – consistent, clear, with respectable enough sales to know your worth.
“I have never wanted anything but to be an independent woman and be happy. I think that was my only goal, to be honest,” she explains. “The way I work is like a very good baker, who wants to make the best bread, who loves his customers, who wants to make a very nice shop, a place for his people and who wants to wait for people. in the best way, with a smile. and sometimes the kind of baker who will give you a gift, with the leftover crust.
“And that’s really how I do things. There is so much common sense, good sense, quality, love and respect for consideration. And I’m totally obsessed with doing things a better way than yesterday, every day. So loyalty is there, and that is the only secret. Because it is like that, without any real intention to grow and grow, then it grows by itself. It just grows.”
The conversation turns to the 6 and 8 year olds, who are going on vacation in a few days. “I’m going to miss them a lot,” laments Sézalory. “So I’m going to spend time with them at home tonight. But first I have to design. Then my girls, then the party.” All in one evening? Bien sur She is dégourdi.