Maison Labiche Interview for Fashion Salade
“From T-shirts to Triumph”
Dissatisfied with their past careers, friends Jenny and Marie decided to take the reins and begin a clothing line. The concept? Super soft basic cotton tees and sweatshirts hand-embroidered with the names of famous fictional characters or musical artists. They offically launched the brand in January 2011 and have no plans of looking back. After the success of their T-shirts, they created an equally successful line of hand-crafted jewelry. With a thriving line in established retailers, they have plans to expand the brand include a broader range of accessories and womenswear. We talked to the girls about their unique embrodiering process, the labels they love and the significance behind the ridiculously catchy phrase, “Yeah Baby.”
Fashion Salade: How did the brand begin?
Maison Labiche: We were both working in creative jobs but felt something was missing. We were a little bit bored and wanted to use our hands again and control the whole creative process from thinking to doing. While still keeping our jobs, we started to meet once a week to think about this project.
FS: Before beginning the brand, you each had different roles within the fashion and design industries. Explain the roles of your partnership and how your past careers helped establish Maison Labiche.
ML: Thanks to our past careers, we already had some experience that helped us grow and become more reactive and mature. We knew how to build a collection and how the market was operating. But Maison Labiche is more about our personalities and chemistry together. We created it in order to do something about who we are and not about what we have done before. We are both piloting the brand; Jenny is in charge of the brand image and communication, while Marie is more involved in the design and technical part but each has an eye on the whole process.
FS: How did you come up with the name, “Maison La Biche”? What’s the significance behind the catchphrase, “Yeah Baby”?
ML: “Maison (house)” is because we wanted to have a French consonance and an open project that will allow collaborations. “Labiche” is the nickname of Marie’s mother. At the end, we liked the sound of Maison Labiche. “Yeah Baby” is part of our everyday language. We use it when we want to congratulate someone or when we like something. At the beginning it just felt like a cheer and then it became part of our identity.
FS: Your T-shirt designs are obvious odes to pop culture and literature yet have a very original idea behind them. How important is it that the designs are relatable without becoming cliched?
ML: The very first T-shirt we embroidered was “Holden Caulfield,” the main character of The Catcher in the Rye novel. At that moment, we saw the potential of the idea and started developing it with names we loved. We quickly realised we had to propose names that would appeal to many people. On the other hand, we strongly believe that Maison Labiche has an identity and we are not ready to propose names we think are too obvious or used. The choice of names is made out of our tastes but submitted to a commercial reality. Maison Labiche really came out of us.
FS: How did your collaboration with music label, Sober & Gentle come about?
ML: Sober & Gentle saw a T-shirt we made for Kim, a French singer, and our collections in different shops. They contacted us to work on the launch of Greenshape’s first album.
FS: Your brand is composed of both a T-shirt and sweatshirt line and a jewelry line. How does each play off one another?
ML: We started with embroidered T-shirts and sweatshirts then, a customer asked us to do a small jewelry line. It was very successful and we loved creating it so we kept doing jewelry. Both our clothes and accessories collections meet the customers’ needs.
FS: Why do you hand embroider each T-shirt?
ML: Hand embroidering each T-shirt is great because it allows for a freedom in the designs. There is no machine that can give the same results.
FS: How do you decide which writers’, artists’ or characters’ names to embroider? Which ones are most popular?
ML: The names we decide to embroider are people and songs we love, admire or make us laugh. The T-shirt collection is like a delicacy to our tastes. Right now the most popular is “The Dude.”
FS: Are there any plans to expand the line to include womenswear, menswear or a broader range of accessories?
ML: Absolutely. Currently, we are working on more embroidered T-shirts and hand-dyed silk T-shirts, scarves and dresses. We are also creating a new jewelry collection.
FS: Since the brand is still fairly new, what established designers or brands do you admire?
ML: We admire many people in different fashion fields. If we have to drop names, Acne because their products and image are really well elaborated and they are always doing interesting collaborations. Also, Lanvin because Alber Elbaz designs beautifully breathtaking luxury clothes yet maintains a unique, nice, joyful and uninhibited image. Lastly, Opening Ceremony because they invented a new concept for fashion; doing only collaborations and they achieved something new, above trendy, wearable and exciting.
FS: Maison La Biche launched only shortly over a year ago. Explain some of the challenges you faced when starting out.
ML: At the beginning, the biggest challenge for us was to be sold. We needed to be in shops but we wanted a certain level of shops for our brand, so it was hard to place the brand the way we wanted it. We had to be very patient and not rush the process.
FS: Where can people buy your designs?
ML: You can shop all the collections at our E-shop (www.maisonlabiche.com) as well as in a selection of great shops around the world such as Restir, Rice and Beans and many others. However, the main retailer for our T-shirts is Colette in Paris; we are hosting a Maison Labiche Bar there on December 2nd, 3rd, 9th and 10th.
By Juliet De Rose