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Happy Friday everyone! Welcome back to our Friday Founder segment. This week we have started to allow ourselves to get excited about the most inspiring fashion season of them all: Autumn *jazz hands*. With Autumn comes the possibility to wear suede boots and dresses, comfy layers with peep-toe shoes and even a cheeky, unessential scarf.
If you are anything like us though, we like to consider the clothing that we are bringing into our wardrobes these days, because of the effect fabrics have, not only on our sensitive skin but also, on the planet.
This week, we welcome Florence Cools, the co-founder and Creative Director of La Collection to CAROLINAGMX. La Collection is an Antwerp-born fashion brand that plays with elegant femininity and masculine tailoring in a way that is unique and eye-catching. So grab yourself your morning coffee and get comfy because this week’s interview is simply unmissable!
Morning Florence! Thank you for joining us. Could you start by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel it has influenced you today?
I must say that I was lucky enough to have a childhood filled with happiness. I was raised by two open-minded and creative parents, with a family who always let me explore my interests. My Godfather is a famous Belgian writer and artist, and my Grandmother was a couturier with her own in-house boutique. I was always surrounded by beautiful art and clothing growing up.
"We wanted to create and be free; but most importantly, we wanted to build a brand that had the finest quality, did not overproduce, and we wanted to be able to do it our way."
That sounds idyllic! So, how did you get started in the fashion industry?
My husband and I decided to go for it and open a multi-brand store, Damoy, which is- still to this day- going strong. We had no experience whatsoever but believed in each other and so far, it has been an amazing journey. We did, however, feel that a sense of absolute freedom in creativity was missing, and felt that we wanted to build something that was truly our own. That is when our label La Collection was born. We wanted to create and be free; but most importantly, we wanted to build a brand that had the finest quality, did not overproduce, and we wanted to be able to do it our way. We created La Collection three years ago and we couldn’t be more content with where this brand is going.
I’m so pleased for you. And as you know, we are obsessed with hearing about how brands consider sensitive skin and customer allergies throughout the process of selecting fabrics and materials. Is this issue important to La Collection?
Yes! It is really important to us that we work with natural material; our silk is handwoven especially for us, meaning we supervise every detail of it. Additionally, when choosing wool fabrics we strive to make sure that they are as pure as possible so that you can directly feel the comfort of the fabric.
That is definitely the sort of thing I look for in fashion brands nowadays. How does sustainability factor into La Collection?
Sustainability is a big part of La Collection. We are genuinely focused on not overproducing, sourcing the right fabrics and manufacturing in a sustainable way. As a brand, we make transitional pieces that truly will last for a lifetime. Because of the high quality our customers can enjoy wearing their La Collection items forever… They are timeless essentials.
That’s what we love; fewer but higher quality clothing. Do you think people are more conscious of the materials and fabrics in their clothes nowadays? If so, why?
I absolutely think so! For example, I am certain that our customer is quite conscious and prefers natural materials that are produced in places that are legitimate.
Totally! I think those customers are becoming more and more common. What were your biggest challenges in starting up La Collection?
Really, every day you face some kind of challenge when you own a business. It is everything from the production of the garments to keeping everyone motivated during the Covid-19 crisis. However, it is key to persist when faced with complications, to power through and to continue to work for the vision that we have for La Collection. I can confirm that we are very much willing to work towards that every day.
Good for you! What strategies do you think have been key to the success of La Collection?
We never cut back on quality and continue to create transitional items that women can wear from day to night, at any moment, to feel that extra confidence that we sometimes need.
That is definitely what I look for when I’m shopping. Right, what is your favourite thing about your job?
The absolute freedom I have to be creative!
Creative freedom is such a beautiful feeling! Which is your favourite piece that you’ve ever created for La Collection?
Oh, that is such a hard question... perhaps one of our blazerdresses: Modesty or Yasmine. A blazerdress is such an investment piece because you can layer and style it in several different ways.
Those blazerdresses are next level! They’re edgy yet so elegant. What do you think makes La Collection stand out?
La Collection is a high-quality brand that combines an effortlessly chic design, masculine-inspired tailoring with an oh-so feminine vibe. Our clothes can give women that extra sense of confidence and style they are looking for.
I completely agree! There is something really powerful about La Collection pieces. Could you describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment?
It would have to be when I saw Dame Judi Dench in our Benedicte dress in British Vogue! That was a truly surreal moment for us as a brand.
OMG! I’m obsessed with her. I would have cried! What inspires you?
Firstly, old movies, art, architecture and travel... But mostly, culture! As I live in Antwerp, I am lucky enough to experience many different cultures that intertwine. I feel as inspired on my walk to the grocery store as I do when I take my morning run in the city park.
To be able to see people walking around in their traditional clothing makes my heart skip a beat and inspires me; it’s ordinary, but it is still pure beauty. I love to take it all in and translate real-life into our collection. I am also quite clearly obsessed with men's tailoring, which I enjoy deconstructing and embedding into the women's collection!
"It would have to be when I saw Dame Judi Dench in our Benedicte dress in British Vogue! That was a truly surreal moment for us as a brand."
That’s a great reminder that the most seemingly ordinary things can be beautiful and sources of inspiration! Could you describe what an average day looks like for you?
It really depends on what season it is. If we are in a designing phase I lock myself up at home to draw all day, putting my drawings on the floors and mixing fabrics in my collages. However, when we’re in the sales period during fashion week, I love to join my sales team in our showroom in Paris and meet all the amazing buyers that visit us; it really is a dream come true to show them the current collection. Following that, I enter full production mode to make sure everything is clear and set out in our ateliers. What this all means is that I never have a typical day, and I love that about my work.
That sounds so varied and exciting! Would you say that you are able to have a work/life balance?
It really does depend on the period we are in, but honestly, it is hard to separate what I love doing from my home life. Creating La Collection with my husband Artur indirectly means that we are always on the clock and always thinking about work. However, I choose to look at it as our strength. We are lucky enough to have found our passion in the same thing.
I think you’re right. It is a blessing! What words do you live by?
“No risk, no gain!” and “follow your heart!”
Finally, what’s next for La Collection?
La Collection is expanding into a full collection, meaning that we will have an official ready-to-wear line, with shoes and bags. La Collection will be found in more and more exclusive stores around the world, and we could not be happier to share our brand with you!
Like what you read? Head to the La Collection website to shop now!
Alternatively, if you fancy checking out some of our previous interviews, you can find them here. Want more from CAROLINAGMX? Check this out: Finding The Right Shampoo & Tools For A Sensitive Scalp