Morgane Sézalory on Sézane’s goal of becoming the label of the future
On Friday October 18, French label Sézane will stage the grand inauguration of its new Parisian store in the 17th arrondissement, at 63 boulevard des Batignolles, close to the Villiers underground station. Sézane’s latest shop is larger than its previous stores, reflecting an adjustment in the label’s approach. It will be the seventh direct retail outlet for Sézane, which reportedly generated a revenue of €80 million in 2018, adding to its four stores and two retail concessions in Paris, London, New York and Aix-en Provence, plus the two concierge service offices in the French capital, complementary to Sézane’s e-shop.
Code-named “Le libre service” (self-service), the new store is akin to the label’s previous apartment-style shops, though it has a more welcoming, less showroomy feel, showcasing more items that customers will be able to select unassisted, for a more independent shopping experience. “At Sézane, we learn as we go along,” said Morgane Sézalory, who was interviewed by FashionNetwork.com on the eve of the store’s inauguration. The label’s retail approach is constantly evolving, based on the insight gained from its existing stores and on its founder and CEO’s intuitions.
FashionNetwork.com: You are about to open a new store in Paris. Can you tell us what it will look like, as you are applying the final touches to it?
Morgane Sézalory: The final, last-minute touches indeed. For us this will be a new, different retail concept, above all because the store will showcase many, many items! The idea is to make it self-service, so that the visitors’ experience will be easier and quicker! Sézane will obviously be the predominant label, but there will also be something of a concept store dimension, unassumingly so, with different brands in all the various product categories, from sneakers to jewellery, and also special collaborations with other labels, like for example Les Récupérables. There will be a vintage section, a nod to the area and to our history, an opportunity for upcycling old fabrics, called “Les Chutes libres” [literally ‘free fall’, but also a pun on the word “chutes” which in French means 'scraps']. Quite a lot going on, also because the premises [400 m2 on two levels] allow us to do so! The store will be arranged in different sections, including footwear, jewellery and a rather extensive range of lifestyle products.
FNW: You are also opening pop-up stores in some of France’s largest cities, where there might be enough demand to eventually open permanent ones.
MS: Yes, we’re touring the whole country: we’re in Bordeaux at the moment, then Lyon and later Lille, we’re going out to meet our customers. But our preferential domain is and will always be our website. Meeting customers through the pop-up format is a way of thanking them, by dedicating them time and energy, and reaching out to them. We are adopting the same approach abroad, where we are planning to open some pop-up stores in 2020, in the USA and in Europe. But our customers are above all the site's customers. I’m not too keen on expanding Sézane’s brick-and-mortar presence, there’s too much work involved if you want to create unique venues. I simply fell in love with the 17th arrondissement. And in future, who knows, I might fall for some other nice area. It's more to do with my passion for furniture and interior decoration.
FNW: Indeed, you mentioned a lifestyle range, with some interior decoration products. Do you think you might push farther with this category, to leverage your passion?
MS: Well, it's something I’ve enjoyed for a long time. But it's a different business, and I’ll only want to tackle it if I think that I can reach the same level of discernment as the one we’ve attained for fashion. But yes, it’s one of the projects I’m cultivating, though it may well take 10 years!
FNW: You have an extensive product range, with [women’s] ready-to-wear, a huge choice of accessories, and you launched menswear too. Are there other categories on the cards?
MS: Yes, there are. In November, we will launch an eco-responsible sportswear line. It’s a women’s sportswear range consisting of some 30 items, on which we have been working for two years, to make sure that we hit the right blend of technology, sustainability and fashion. The entire line is made of recycled or eco-designed materials, without compromising the features required by performance apparel.
FNW: Sustainability is one of the areas on which you’re working this year, and for the future. How much progress have you made?
MS: We have reached our goals for the entire denim line and a large part of our essentials, which have switched to eco-responsible materials and processes, with minimal impact on the environment. This was a major effort for us, also because we are adopting the same approach for the entirety of our permanent collections by September 2020. We have actually exceeded our goals, as we have stocked more than four times the amount of materials needed for our new needs. This will cover two thirds of our entire range next season. It is really THE priority for us in terms of product development: to do everything we possibly can, and to do it transparently, even if this means shrinking our margins, in a very real sense. And doing so while continuing to advance in creative terms, which is taking up more and more of my time. Our goal truly is to become the label of the future. In my opinion, the label of the future will be the most sustainable and also the most creative.
FNW: Sézane is said to have generated a revenue of €80 million in 2018, can you tell us how it is expected to evolve in 2019?
MS: I can’t, we don’t disclose our results. It isn’t taboo, but it’s a subject I’d rather not discuss. I have chosen to embody the label, and this for me means talking about style and creativity. Sézane must express itself in the creative field. What I can say is that we’re managing to become increasingly accomplished, and this, little by little, opens up further opportunities for us. Sézane is a generous label, one that respects its clients so, of course, it has grown. It will grow this year too. And also in future, if we’ll follow the path we’ve set out.
FNW: Last year, US investment fund General Atlantic bought a minority stake in Sézane. What kind of relationship do you have with the fund, and what is the objective of the collaboration?
MS: What I can say is that this hasn’t changed the way we work on a day-to-day basis, it isn’t that kind of relationship. [General Atlantic] sometimes gets involved on specific issues, for example IT or technology, that's all. They aren’t directly involved in our administration. General Atlantic joined forces with Sézane in order to help us achieve our goal of making it a great label in the long term.
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