3 questions for ... Julie Arend, founder of Fraiche
Julie Arend, a 33-year-old entrepreneur, doesn’t believe in halfway measures. The founder of the women’s ready-to-wear label Fraiche is exuberant and eager to communicate, qualities evident in her designs which are a far cry from fashion diktats. And yet Julie could have easily been drawn into the excitement of marketing. Armed with a business school diploma, she started her professional life in the Gucci purchasing department and two years later joined the fragrance and cosmetics trends office at Chanel. After two years there she became part of the Urgo marketing team, where she stayed for four years. This impressive background finally led her to design and a vision of well made, timeless fashion. Maybe it was a reawakening of her family’s past, when she was surrounded by seamstresses – a grandmother who was a première d’atelier for Chanel and a mother and aunt who were sewing teachers. Did that give her the courage, after just a summer of thinking it over, to start her own label in October? Her daring and enthusiasm were quickly rewarded.
You founded the brand in October 2016, presented the first collection in January 2017, opened a boutique in October 2017, expanded your team in January 2018, and launched a first capsule collection this fall. Everything happens very quickly for Fraiche. How do you explain your success?
Fraiche is a brand built on a simple idea, and I’m convinced that those are the brands that work. The concept is to express a joyful version of fashion that doesn’t force a look on women. The pieces are on-trend without being overly so, so clients can choose what suits them. To strengthen this idea, we stopped using professional models. Now our icons are our clients, and it’s easier for them to imagine themselves in our collections. In any case, that’s the feedback we’re getting from social media and the boutique. And opening a boutique was one of the best decisions we ever made. It not only lets us share our brand universe but also puts us in direct contact with women and helps us understand them. It wasn’t set out the business plan, where I had instead opted for a digital strategy; but the boutique happened in a spontaneous fashion. That’s how I operate, I’m flexible and quick to adapt. But that doesn’t stop me from covering all the bases for a project! I create a framework, but within it I leave undefined areas, otherwise it’s impossible to be creative.
Fraiche is a fashion project but it’s also a manifesto. Do you think that ready-to-wear should go hand in hand with social commitment today?
No, I don’t think so. Fraiche’s commitment is to upbeat, long lasting fashion that’s well made and made locally. It’s the opposite of fast fashion, but we don’t preach. There are labels without social or environmental missions and they work very well. Consumers need every kind of choice and I respect that.
In fact, responsibility wasn’t a strategy for me; it’s my nature. Obviously, I projected that into Fraiche and I share it with my entire team. I could not successfully manage my projects without them.
Is “made in Paris” a complicated process to set up? How did you plan local manufacturing?
To be honest, in the very beginning manufacturing in Paris was a strategic and financial decision. To work with foreign factories you have to place large orders and we knew we would produce limited quantities.
From the start I wanted to focus on short runs and to manage stock carefully. Also, manufacturing in other countries would not have given me real control over products. And since I was born into a family of seamstresses, I couldn’t imagine presenting clothes that were not extremely well made. Thanks to a friend, it was easy to find an atelier in Paris. And that’s where all our clothes have been made since the beginning. Obviously, the “made in Paris” choice implies costs and I’m very transparent about that with our clients. For retail prices we use a “times three” rule – which is very reasonable – to keep our products accessible. However, we don’t do markdowns or sales. For my positioning, I was very inspired by the Sessùn brand, which I consider attractive and just right in every aspect: it’s not too expensive, the designs are long lasting, and clients don’t tire of them. There aren’t many houses like that and that inspires respect.