When Dany Dos Santos and Maxime Schwab decide to launch their men’s brand Drôle de Monsieur in 2014, they add a funny slogan: «Not From Paris, Madame». The first is in master’s degree in finance, the second is a restaurant manager. They have no fashion connection and, above all, live in Dijon. It doesn’t matter… Five years later, their label “inspired by their love of the stylish streets of yesterday and today” is distributed in 50 points of sale across 25 countries.
More than a slogan, the label «Not From Paris, Madame» made the buzz in the fashion world and ended up attracting all the lights. “At the time, a lot of brands used the word ‘Paris’ to give themselves a certain credibility,” says Dany Dos Santos. We wanted to go against the grain. Affirming our provincial origins signaled that we were assuming the small town to conquer the capital. The idea was also to express our status as an outsider and to show that we can be inventive everywhere without necessarily claiming to be from New York, Milan or Paris. ”
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If they settled last year in the capital – international development requires – they claim to have built their brand and network from Dijon. An inspiring success that also tells another fashion story. The one which is now part of the French regions accompanied, especially since the confinements linked to the health crisis, by a new look at our territories.
“Fashion in the provinces is another alternative to Paris, another proposition, one more page. It has been put forward a lot in recent years, because it also corresponds to values that resonate more and more in society, such as the return to the local, the end of all-consumable, the rediscovery of a history, of know-how, the shift towards a more slow with qualitative values which are also life choices, explains Pierre-François Le Louët, president of the French Federation of Women’s Ready-to-Wear and of the NellyRodi agency. By embodying an alternative lifestyle to the bustle of Paris and to agreed recipes, it even becomes almost one. hype.»
The vogue of “made in France”
Claiming the regional spirit, the new grail? The beautiful brand of bags workwear Bleu de Chauffe, in vegetable tanned leather, proudly proclaims on its website that the cuts, styles and stitching of its models are made in its workshop in Saint-Georges-de-Luzençon, in Aveyron. “When we started the business twelve years ago, consumers began to be sensitive to the made in France, to the idea of short circuit, traceability, local know-how. Today, this request is obvious, told last year in the magazine Echo’veyron, Alexandre Rousseau, designer and co-founder of Bleu de Chauffe. “It is important for an SME, for which the territory is an inspiration, to really belong to it and to be an actor.”
Take also the Atlantic Coast, from Biarritz to Normandy, where a multitude of labels have emerged in recent years, as if the sea air brought a much more inspiring breath than Parisian exhaust pipes. Between Bask in the Sun (Guéthary), Hopaal and Anders Arens (Biarritz), Owantshoozi (Ordiarp), Hoalen (Finistère), the forerunner Saint James and its iconic sailor shirts made near Mont Saint-Michel or Le Minor, in Brittany, taken over by two young entrepreneurs, Sylvain Flet and Jérôme Permingeat, who left Paris to relaunch this historic supplier to the French Navy, there is no shortage of creative initiatives.
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Riding on a cloakroom facing the sea and built on authentic basics, these dynamic brands from the west coast are generally accompanied by an eco-responsible fiber in phase with their DNA. “We wanted to launch a business with no impact on the planet, and to talk in particular about issues related to the ocean, it seemed more legitimate to us to be based in Biarritz,” explains Clément Maulavé, co-founder of Hopaal. Their mixed-spirit wardrobe surfwear is made from recycled or natural materials such as linen and produced in a radius that does not exceed 1000 kilometers around Biarritz.
“We also try to meet a need rather than create one, that is to say that we are not going to manufacture thousands of dresses and advertise them. We involve a community around values such as the environment by questioning the demand for products. It’s a happy medium between wishes and our creative response. ” The young designer also explains that this region far from Paris was not an obstacle to recruiting seven people. “We receive ten applications per day and we see that many young people are interested in the proposed living environment,” said the man who said with a smile that he likes to surf at lunchtime.
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The “regional” spirit
Another charming asset of small towns or villages in France: the space available and the mutual assistance of the inhabitants. For Juana and Ddiddue Etcheberry, the creators of the Basque brand Owantshoozi which won the Grand Prix for fashion accessories at the Hyères 2020 festival, there was no question of leaving Ordiarp, this village in the Basque Country where they both have grown up. For their caps and superb headgear inspired by samurai hats and made from 100% of the waste promised to the dumpster, they collect, among other things, from the inhabitants of the region, plastic containers, woolen blankets and linens. .
“This is a project that we could not have carried out in Paris,” explains Ddiddue. We used local radios to appeal to individuals and we also needed space for my tools, the forty basins or inner tubes that I collect every day from individuals or dealers. Frankly, I couldn’t see myself taking the metro in Paris with everything I carry around every day… ”Juana also specifies that these empty territories of consumption encourage creation. This has not escaped the eye of two great Parisian luxury houses – Chanel and Hermès – with whom the duo will soon collaborate.
Dynamism and innovation
Being in remote corners of France no longer hinders visibility. Atelier Tuffery, whose durable jeans are a hit in both the French and Japanese markets, is a glaring example. This family house, created in 1892 in Florac in the Cévennes, is today managed by Julien Tuffery (fourth generation). This irreducible Gaul refuses to open a Parisian address which would jeopardize, according to him, his values. He also amusingly recounts how this century-old company went from near bankruptcy in his father’s time to a resounding rebirth. “When I took over Atelier Tuffery, the made in France was already on the rise, but I see that being a small craftsman from the depths of the least populated department in France is no longer considered out of date. It has even become rewarding because I believe that consumers are now very sensitive to authentic and well-made products. ”
If the “regional” spirit is stamped as a new cool – proof of the Provençal collections of Jacquemus -, the dynamism and innovation demonstrated by the province in 2020 also fit into this new trend equation. Thus, in Roubaix and Lille, former queens of textiles, the cards are reshuffling and, thanks to a talent accelerator incubator such as Fashion Houses, young stylish brands are emerging. Such as Chlore, the very beautiful brand of high-end swimsuits distributed at Bon Marché. The names of some of these chic swimsuits with a clean design – Roubaix La Piscine, Bruay, Tourcoing Les Bains – speak for themselves.
“The North is our history,” says Hélène Boulanger, co-founder with Franck Laureys of this label located near the famous Roubaix swimming pool. Our brand was born while speaking in a swimming pool corridor in Tourcoing-les-Bains. The city of Roubaix and Maisons de Mode then helped us a lot to develop. In Paris, there are a lot of designers and the doors are not open to all. Here, in the North, we are much more united. And we see a new creative dynamic restarting. ”
Will the future of fashion fit into the French regions? “One thing is certain: the province has regained its letters of nobility, concludes Pierre-François Le Louët. For many French people, it has even become synonymous with the dream life. And then, thanks to digital and social networks, we have access to the whole world, even if we are based in more remote corners. ” While we are from Lille, Dijon, Lorient, Florac or Biarritz … it doesn’t matter, tomorrow’s fashion can now follow all paths.
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