In The Studio With Maison Cléo: Inside Everyone's Favorite E-Shop
Based in Northern France, conjured up with love, and embedded in family history, this brand was created by mother and daughter Marie and Nathalie (Cléo) Dewet toward the end of 2016. Don’t be fooled by their recent “start” date; garment-making has been in the family for ages. Not only were the techniques and attitudes passed down by previous generations, but each garment is named after a female in their family; their legacy lives on through beautifully crafted (mainly silk and wool) pieces that are coveted across the globe.
Marie’s previous experience in business working for the fashion resale site Vestiaire Collective, combined with Nathalie’s experience as a seamstress, has set the duo up to create a business structure that promotes their values and works within their schedule. For the Dewet women, transparency and sustainability are of utmost importance; each piece includes a full price breakdown and explanation of the production timeline. In efforts to minimize waste, all of the fabric they use is leftover from suppliers, couture houses, and designers.
Read below for more on why they do what they do, and take a peek inside their studio in the gallery above.
There isn’t one type of Maison Cléo girl; a person that wears your clothing is authentic and intellectual. They are sustainable and have the future in mind. What are some other qualities of someone you’d like to wear your clothing?
To not pretend to be anyone else and to be self-confident.
How did your communications degree and previous experience at Vestiaire Collective prepare you to create your own brand?
I think my communication skills helped me to launch the brand; even if we fail, all came very naturally to us. I think you need to be passioned and people will feel it. We do the brand with our heart, my mum loves sewing a lot and is always excited each week when we receive our daily orders. It’s also thanks to our family story, each woman was a seamstress and the grandmother of my grandmother even was the head of her own workshop, so we didn’t have to be prepared and to think about the way we would create our brand (by making everything to order for example) because we already had models.
How would you describe your own personal style?
I almost only buy from vintage and second-hand now (even more since I work at Vestiaire Collective). The only things I buy from stores are maybe bags and shoes. I love everything that is old-fashioned. I don’t like a style in particular. I love vintage, but I more precisely like quality pieces. That is why I decided to create a brand at the beginning with my mother because a lot of French brands were popping up, but no one was only using natural fabrics. My mother has the same kind of style, she taught me to only buy from second-hand.
France is so full of culture and beauty; fashion aside, who and what inspires you today?
A) Book/Author : Une Vie by Guy de Maupassant.
B) Song : “Un soir de pluie” de Blues Trottoir.
C) Painting : the ones of Frida Kahlo.
D) Food : pasta always.
Do you remember the first piece you sold—what was it? How did it feel?
Yes, at that time we had to create an e-shop because we were getting several demands of people wanting to buy from us. In the beginning, we were just making silk simple pieces, made from gorgeous Haute Couture silks, so our first sale was a straps silk top, the day we opened the e-shop. It was strange because it seemed like our business was becoming serious.
Why is sustainable fashion important to you? Do you practice sustainability in other realms of your life?
Sustainability has always been important in my family so it was something natural for me.
When people ask us why and how we decided to create this “handmade-to-order” system, in fact, we never thought about that. Our mothers and grandmothers already practiced this system in their workshops, so it was part of our everyday life. Regarding clothes, like I said, I almost only buy second-hand or vintage. If I buy something new, I pay attention to the country of manufacture and the way the production of the brand is made, and also about the fabrics. I also only buy vintage and second-hand furniture and home decoration. It’s also important to take care about what I eat. I prefer to spend to my money on local and small workers as opposed to a multinational food brand.
Has fashion and cost transparency always been important to you? When did you start incorporating the price breakdown?
Yes. This is also because of the subject of prices that I really wanted to create a brand with my mother in the beginning. I worked in fashion, and in all my internships and work when I was young, I saw all the manufacturing processes and all the margins that brands take on in production (even when they produce in France.) The margin is so high I was shocked.
I also saw the real prices of the fabrics. When a French brand sells a polyester dress at 240 euros that is made in a factory (so not with a handmade process), this is really too expensive. That’s why I wanted to explain the prices, so people can know what they’re buying.
In order to create all of the pieces in time for your weekly sale, what is your schedule like? Can you describe one week at Maison Cléo?
My mother has to sew all the orders we receive in two weeks. So the delay of sending is two weeks.
She sews every day and schedules her days as she wants. Regarding my weekly schedule, days are never the same and I don’t have a typical day : drawings, fabrics buying, press requests, communication, shooting photos…
Do you have any interns or assistants?
We have no interns. My little sister helps us with all the customer services, e-sales and shipments parts. One person helps my mother to pack, iron and prepare the shipments, and I have someone who helps me with the communication parts.
How do you choose the models and photographers you want to collaborate with?
The models are friends or girls I discovered on Instagram. The only request is that they don’t have to wear any makeup, I only want very natural girls. I also don’t edit any pictures. Either I’m photographing or Chloé Bruhat is, always with a film camera.
Are there any designers you’d collaborate with? Who are you dream collaborations (photography, video, models)?
We haven’t done any collection collaborations yet, but we’ve done photo collaborations with brands: Los Feliz Shop, By Far, Susan Alexandra and some other vintage shops. We’ve collaborated with photographers: Jessica Barthel, Doria Santlofer and Miriam Marlene. I’d love to collaborate with Miriam Marlene again; I am in love with her universe, with the ones of Nikki McClarron and Maxime Imbert too. Regarding the models, I’d love to collaborate with Stella Von Senger!
What’s in store for Winter?
Like last winter, we will only work with beautiful 100 percent wool fabrics. I can’t tell what we are going to launch, but I hope the first pieces will be out towards the end of September!
Also, because we only buy from leftovers and dead stock fabrics from suppliers, couture houses, and designers, there isn’t a collection. Instead, we have news every month according to the fabrics we found at the appointments we have.
Images courtesy of Maison Cléo
Stay tuned to Milk for more studio visits.