Happy 20th anniversary to Paul & Joe!
Paul & Joe, the so French, so chic label designed by Sophie Mechaly, is turning 20 this month. To celebrate, Sophie is giving us a rare interview and letting us in on her highlights from the last two decades in business…
Sophie, we saw the Duchess Of Cambridge wearing Paul & Joe last month – was that a huge surprise to you?
‘It was so unexpected! She is sublime, I love her energy and natural beauty. My team and I were really honoured to see her wearing one of our designs and the media around the world covered the news. It was a day of great excitement, lots of phone calls; especially to our Mayfair store where the cape sold out in few hours.’
Which other celebrities have you most enjoyed seeing wear Paul & Joe?
‘So many over the last 20 years…. Julia Roberts, Kate Moss, Alexa Chung, Kate Bosworth, Vanessa Paradis. For me it’s about girls with style and who just love French chic.’
Below, the Duchess Of Cambridge wearing a Paul & Joe cape on her trip to Bhutan, April 2016
How does it feel to be celebrating 20 years of your brand?
‘I am very proud. A number of people on the team have been with us from the start and there is a common passion that still drives us all today. Every day continues to surprise us and the main thing is that we are still having fun together!’
Where did it all start for you? What was the moment where you could see your label taking off?
‘1995. After 6 years working with my parents brand Le Garage (known for its well-made printed shirts in the 80s) I wanted independence. The names of my children inspired the name of Paul & Joe. I started the brand with a men’s collection, breaking the codes of the time by offering a more modern and colourful wardrobe, with original prints. From the debut presentation I was surprised by the enthusiasm of buyers and the media. Some time later, I launched womenswear and then a secondary, younger line, Paul & Joe Sister. It was only in 2000 when I launched beauty, plus opened stores in Tokyo and London, that I realized I felt I had started to build a small but promising empire.’
What’s been the biggest hurdle you’ve faced?
‘Fighting with suppliers and manufacturers to ensure our collections are produced to the highest quality and are delivered on time. To be honest, every day is a battle when you are fighting for excellence but the results are always satisfying. The support of my family, my fighting spirit and my optimism are the keys factors to the success story of Paul & Joe. But also the consistency in creating a recognisable unique style, not just jumping on trends like many brands do nowadays.’
How do you feel about being the face of your brand – do you enjoy Instagram?
‘I understand that people want to know who is the face behind the brand, but I do prefer to concentrate on my collections. With the digital age though, talking about yourself has become almost compulsory for designers. Instagram is my favourite social media platform, my personal profile is closed as I don’t want to flaunt my life, but I share important moments on our @paulandjoeparis account. The brand is very much a reflection of me though, even the stores are designed in the style of my own apartment! So I can’t escape it and it has naturally become my own lifestyle brand.’
Talk us through the AW16 collection – what was on your mood board?
‘There were pictures of David Bowie and Edie Sedgwick, photos of rock concerts in the 80s and disco scenes, plus pieces of sequinned fabric, lace and faux fur. The result was astonishing, this was by far my favourite collection… until the next one of course.’
How do you design – are you someone who sketches all day?
‘I’m not at my desk all day to draw, there isn’t the time. I like to move and travel as much as possible because that is what inspires me the most. I organize many fittings for the development of each collection and I work more towards creating singular silhouettes and looks.’
What do you think has changed most about the fashion industry in the last 20 years?
‘With the arrival of fast fashion, of we’ve had to be more creative and strive to produce even better quality products than ever before. I’ve seen so many designers quit their jobs because of the pressure [to turn out dozens of collections per year) which is put on them by the fashion conglomerates. I see the horrible ‘transfer market’ that is effecting a lot of the French designers. It makes me believe more than ever in the power of being an independent company and necessity to build a solid identity for Paul & Joe.’
How do you stay relevant after 20 years?
‘There are so many fashion weeks worldwide and so many brands. For the sake of the label itself and to create some new excitement for the buyers and the press, we have to create more original and entertaining events. Traditional fashion shows will become obsolete. I am already working on exciting new things for our SS17 collection, so stay tuned…’