“Don’t do what the person next to you or in front of you is doing.”
In the framework of 48H Maisons de Mode Lille, Sylvette Boutin Lepers, shared with us her experience on working with young designers for the Design Collaborations of La Redoute, where she is Head of Creative Partnerships and Brand Imaging.
Can you tell us more about your role at La Redoute?
Well, I’m Sylvette Boutin Lepers. I’m Head of Designer Collaborations at La Redoute. I’ve been doing that for quite a few years. What does my job consist of? What inspires me on a daily basis? Discovering new talent, deciding whether to collaborate, and working together on the collections. Right up to selling the clothes, in fact. The process starts with work on the collection plan, which I oversee because La Redoute is in charge of production. We work together on the communication plan and the shoot, and decide how we want to project it on social media and on our e‑shop. Obviously, I’m talking about young talent, but I’m also talking about the better-known fashion houses.
I’m on the jury of HEAD Genève (Geneva School of Art and Design), a major fashion and design school. It’s fascinating because I meet young people who don’t necessarily have much money but who are bursting with ideas, who think they’re going to change the world, who are full of ethics, who are very responsible and who want their products to be worn by as many people as possible. They want to see women on the street wearing their clothes.
That’s what keeps me busy at the moment, day in day out, week in week out.
During the panel discussion you took part in, you repeatedly highlighted the importance of respect, interaction and exchange. Why are you plainly highlighting these aspects?
I think that, if we look at the designers’ personalities, they are very sensitive individuals who really need to be given a confidence boost. I’m convinced that doing that comes from respect and transparency. When I say respect, I mean respect for the individual and respect for their world… When you’re keen to do something together, it’s in order to have the DNA of the brand, the designer, the young label. When we meet, we’ve never seen each other before. We need to gain their trust, which comes from respect. By the same token, I expect the same thing from them, i.e. I expect them to have a real respect for our company, which has been going for more than 180 years, era after era. Truthfully, that’s what makes for a successful collaboration: respecting the person in front of us. That means them, their world and their brand.
How do you see the designers you have collaborated with evolving? How do they continue with their projects?
We’ve been doing this for a very long time. We started in 1969, when we introduced the concept of Designer Collaborations. The starting point was to offer designer pieces. In 1969, not everyone could afford ready-made clothes. So it was about offering designer pieces at accessible prices. That was really the starting point.
We have to have prices positioned for our business. It’s extremely difficult for them – they don’t have the resources. La Redoute steps in to alleviate things in terms of production. The designers give us a sketch, a design, and we take care of everything as they don’t have the time to do what La Redoute does too. The three of us – the modelist, the designer and me – move forward together.
Something that I’ve noticed, which is very different from how it used to be, is that I now meet young people who want their pieces to be worn. They want to see this piece worn on the streets. They are less concerned with the conceptual and unique artwork side of things. That’s changed a lot – I think it’s a form of pragmatism.
Do you see certain trends or changes in the fashion industry in Europe? Ones that you find pertinent, compelling or particulary interesting?
Actually, what I find extremely interesting are the questions being asked about fashion – how can we consume fashion differently. This is an issue of real importance, which we are tackling because we are a responsible company. But obviously, with upcycling, customisation, constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing… there’s a sense that this is an issue of real importance.
As I was saying about the designers: I find them extremely responsible, young but very mature, and concerned and worried about the future of this planet. I think that has changed. It’s extremely interesting to exchange views with them on this type of collaboration. The consumer is changing in any case. Fashion is changing because the consumer expects something else, certainly to consume fashion differently.
Exactly, we’re almost talking about sustainable fashion. How do you see this sustainable fashion evolving in the future of the industry and within La Redoute?
By consuming differently, and by no longer producing in absolutely astronomical quantities. At La Redoute we advocate capsule collections because this is a concept of limited editions, and by that I mean that they are available for several weeks or months. That allows for renewal but also allows us to reduce production. I think that producing in astronomical quantities is a thing of the past. There are real questions there, which everyone is asking themselves and which we need to get to grips with in this day and age.
Do you have three advices that you would give to young designers?
The first would be to truly believe in yourself. Next, to go for it, and be unique. Don’t do what the person next to you or in front of you is doing. You need to write your own story, stay in your world. You need to do what you love, without cheating.
Text by United Fashion
Pictures 48H Maisons de Mode Lille by Sebatien Gras