Floriane arrives at her Paris pop-up shop in Rue Androuet, Montmartre for our interview dressed in joggers, t-shirt and trainers, her hair tossed up in a loose bun. Laden with suit bags full of her designs, she is on her way back from presenting her collection at a ‘women in business’ event, and sets about rapidly re-constructing her shop floor and window display.
She disappears briefly to return transformed: the joggers replaced by a pair of jeans and sporting an elegant black and white tweed Cocoon coat from her ready to wear collection ‘From Paris to’ over said t-shirt. Now, here is a piece which could do wonders for any wardrobe!
I’ve already had time to eye up the rails of the new Spring/Summer 2016 collection and have fallen for at least three creations (in addition to the coat Floriane is sporting!). The clothes speak for themselves: luxury fabrics, elegant cuts and interesting details, and it all appears to be extremely wearable.
Just 25, Floriane Fosso, who is French and Cameroonian by origin, is already making her mark on the fashion world with the recent launch of her first high-end, ready-to-wear collection ‘From Paris to’.
She traces her passion for fashion back to when she was just a little girl.
Says Floriane, “My parents both had their own businesses when I was growing up and when I was bored waiting for them at the office, I used to look through my mother’s fashion magazines. I would collect the pictures and make posters for my bedroom. This is how I discovered the likes of Azzedine Alaia and Yves Saint Laurent, one of my favourite designers."
“My mother also took me to sewing lessons at the age of six, where I learnt how to make clothes for my dolls. In Cameroon, visiting my father, I discovered the fabric markets and in particular one famous market in Yaoundé, which sold some very beautiful, rich materials. This was so new to me and I would collect lots of material, which I didn’t really know what to do with. So, I was mixing and matching them to make some fabulous ethnic creations, which I was really proud to wear to school. ”
She oozes natural creative flair and sensuality combined with a hard-working, professional approach which she has honed through her studies and work experience to date. At the age of 20, she decided to go to EMLYON Business School so that she had a sound business grounding .
In 2011, she became a freelance stylist helping fashion designers with photoshoots, prior to working at Michael Kors in New York.
Says Floriane of her time in New York: “I met some amazing and very inspirational people who encouraged me to draw. I feel that these encounters really shaped my future in fashion.”
Then followed a spell at the London Fashion School of Central St Martins and, after more sewing lessons, she finally landed in Shanghai, where she worked for JC Decaux as a luxury advisor. It was the vibrancy and buzz of Shanghai that finally inspired her to start her blog.
‘From Paris to’ by Floriane Fosso is an accessible high-end collection of clothes inspired by a melting pot of destinations, which uses natural, luxury fabrics sourced from haute couture houses. Made in France, the garments are handcrafted in Parisian workshops using artisanal savoir-faire, while her bags are made in Lyon.
She says, “This zero collection is unprecedented, so I really had to make estimations in terms of quantities as I didn’t want to overstock or lose the exclusivity. With my policy of upcycling fabrics from the haute couture fashion houses, it really depends on how much fabric I have as to how many of each garment can be created. For example, we made 50 of the Bund sequinned dress and only 10 of the Marrakech tweed strapless dress.
Upcycling involves sourcing leftover fabrics from haute couture houses via specialist agents. A relatively recent practice, fabrics which are not exclusive to the fashion house are sold to agents, who are then able to sell them on to independent designers like Floriane.
She explains: “It’s a very interesting business model for me as I can buy very high quality, desirable fabrics relatively cheaply and offer my customers superior quality materials at an affordable price. “
This dynamic fashion travel collection, which is ‘always on the move’ bridging continents and cities with its breadth of style, is the result of all of her encounters while travelling.
“I’ve developed some signature touches such as the unfinished, frayed edges and the mixing of modern and traditional fabrics, such as mesh overlaid onto tweed. These features will carry through into future collections.”
Every piece has a story to tell and her mix and match approach really has echoes of her magpie-like collecting when she was a young girl in the fabric markets of Cameroon.
If you ask Floriane what prompted her to launch her ‘From Paris to’ collection, she is very clear.
“My motivation was threefold: firstly, from a personal viewpoint , the job market was very frustrating, my friends were struggling to get jobs in marketing, so I took the opportunity to do my own thing.”
“Secondly, I was frustrated as a consumer because I couldn’t find good quality luxury clothes and was constantly disappointed. I also had a strong allergic reaction to a garment made using toxic dyes. This made me think about what could be done to improve the situation. I wanted to do something accessible and affordable yet extremely high quality.
“I’m working on using the blog as an ongoing part of the collections, featuring different destinations for each season on my website. It will describe how I made my collection and create a webzine feel.
“From Paris to’ is inspired by the cities I have travelled to and worked in. Each part of the collection highlights a different style from a different part of the world, all anchored by my Parisian touch.”
Floriane Fosso, with her creative energy and ethical approach to business, looks like having a very bright future. She is now working on her Spring/Summer Collection 2017.
“I will continue to upcycle but also plan to invest in new natural, organic fabrics, which feel great. For the current collection, the process has been about discovering the fabric and then being inspired to create the garment. For the Spring/Summer Collection 2017, it has been more about having the ideas and then finding a suitable fabric. For me, the design process is all about the interaction between the two.”
The digital side of her business will continue to be important but she also has plans to open a permanent shop in central Paris next winter or early 2017. Developing a network of international distributors will also be a key focus.
Concerned that with all these calls on her time, she won’t have time to travel, I wonder how she’ll gain future creative inspiration.
She sets my mind at rest, saying: “I am really excited to travel to Tokyo very soon, to develop and explore the Japanese market. My pop-up shops and continued business development will enable me to travel and get more inspiration. I need to travel!”
So if her current schedule is anything to go by, it looks like Floriane Fosso is certainly going places, which means more inspired collections in the future.
Named after the vibrant Bund area in Shanghai, the reversible gold and black sequins capture the light and dark of the buildings of the Bund when they are lit up at night.
A blend of traditional tweed, inspired by the patterns of Morocco tapestries, is married with a bold, modern fishnet effect overlay, which screams New York.
On wardrobe essentials for travelling:
“A pair of nice trainers; great jeans; two or three tops, casual and smart such as the Marrakech tweed top; a pair of heels; a jacket and a sweater should cover something for every occasion!”
On her favourite destination:
“Can I say two? I love to go back to Cameroon, my second home, because it is quiet, very emotional and there are still so many things to discover. It is still very raw and wild and I find it very nourishing and come back feeling very refreshed. I find it very restful now to have no internet connection while I am there, I think we all need to disconnect like this at least once a year. It is also very inspiring.
“Then another favourite place would be New York, my third home. Every year when I go back, it’s always different, always changing. I love the energy: New Yorkers are just very buzzy and energetic. It’s great for networking because everyone is very friendly and so busy because their diaries are full of social networking engagements!”
On fashion and fashion designers:
“’Buy less, but buy better’ would be a motto of mine... but at the same time, it’s problematic for the consumer, if people buy high street labels then there is a reason. The economic climate is difficult and you can’t blame the consumer for trying to save money. I think there is a huge gap in the market for eco-friendly high street labels.
“Personally, I love Stella McCartney. Generally I’m very open-minded and like to discover new brands which share my fashion values.”
On artists who inspire her:
“I love photography. I love the French poet Jacques Prévert, who created simple, yet meaningful sketches of everyday life. Also, there is a Cameroon Jazz singer and musician, called Manu Dibango, who I love listening to. I’ve also just discovered a Russian artist, Antonio Marko.
“My fashion icons are Azzedine Alaia and Yves Saint Laurent – they will always inspire me because they did so much to re-educate the fashion world in terms of tolerance and being open-minded, for example, by introducing Afro-American models on the catwalk. I also really admire Jean Paul Gauthier, another very strong character. In this industry, it is so tempting to follow the trends and give into pressure, so I really admire the designers who stay strong and focused.”