Fresh off her Spring/Summer ’15 Paris runway show, I had the rare opportunity to chat with Irish-born and Paris based fashion designer Sharon Wauchob about design and going digital.
In between, Sharon Wauchob imparts a few lessons learned about designing for herself and others, maintaining independence, and launching a new bag line.
Thuy: First thing first, what is your favorite kind of tea?
Sharon: Rose is my favorite. I drink at home on a Sunday morning.
Thuy: Mmmm…sounds like the perfect way to unwind on a Sunday, especially after completing another beautiful collection and show in Paris. How do you feel now?
Sharon: Revitalized. I love to move on and start the new season. It’s the best time.
Thuy: Can you speak a bit about the spring/summer collection? The inspirations and what you were trying to do this season that was different from the previous seasons?
Sharon: I was examining ‘youth’ the energy of the late 60′s and early 70′s and the eccentricity of that time.
Thuy: Could you describe the design philosophy of Sharon Wauchob?
Sharon: My collection is for women who really want design to feel good and make them feel good. They want to look inconspicuously sexy. Real women who know what suits them and are confident about fashion. This means they don’t rely on branding. It’s the image and product that are most important.
I think about femininity a lot. Sexiness is more primal. Femininity is so important to women.
It doesn’t always mean softness. It can mean the juxtaposition of soft and strong.
Women really incorporate both. The quintessential Sharon Wauchob is feminine and boyish at the same time, always relaxed, not overstated but with hidden details.
Thuy: I believe there are many women out there, myself included, who identify and appreciate your approach to design.
You have achieved almost a cult status for your brand. How have you maintained this and do you have any desire to broaden the awareness of your brand?
Sharon: We always think about the individual, the actual woman who wears the clothes. This means I must also think of their integrity. At the same time, our clothes think about practicality and as a working mum. That is so important to me. Therefore, our clothes may be focused but definitely always practical, and as we grow into accessories this season, and with online sales, ultimately it’s fun to reach a wider audience.
Thuy: Do you see any other designers who have gained greater recognition and manage to maintain their core essence?
Sharon: I don’t over analyze others, but of course the one the industry admires most is Alaia. It’s incredible how he has maintained his integrity and yet still reaches an audience without conforming. Of course in so many ways he is iconic.
Thuy: I couldn’t have picked a better example. I understand you started designing for yourself in 1998, have worked for LV and was the Creative Director at Edun. In what ways have designing for yourself been different and similar to designing for these brands/labels?
Sharon: Designing for yourself has many challenges, running your own business is always a challenge. But the freedom is amazing and that’s what drives any designer.
The challenges are very different, especially depending on the infrastructure. Many designers are stifled and not given a voice. In the end, the directors and designers ultimately must have the same vision for a brand to work. I had the privilege in Vuitton to work with a great CEO the late Yves Carcel that was amazing to see that level of commitment.
Thuy: Is the design process the same?
Sharon: To a degree yes, and the importance of a good team is so important. There are many hands involved in making good product.
I am always researching. It’s not a process that switches off. So first, it’s about finishing the identity and then it just keeps going.
Thuy: What were the lessons learned that you are/were able to incorporate into your own label?
Sharon: There are so many. Every day I’m learning. Also working with different cultures really broadens your perspective. I try to take back any experiences and work with them in my own team.
It’s impossible not to (get involved with the business side), especially with the factories, understanding them and their necessities is vital. However my partner, Joshua Neville, has the real responsibilities and takes a lot off my shoulders.
Thuy: What are your thoughts on separating creative and business as a designer?
Sharon: Sometimes it’s good to balance both, I think it’s great to step back, and see the product in a fresh way. The best is to go shopping. It reminds us of what a woman looks for.
Thuy: More and more designers are launching their own ecommerce shops, going digital.
Curious to know what your thoughts are on this.
Sharon: Fashion is definitely going through a revolution via the digital space, and it would be naive to ignore it. The most interesting aspect for me is how this allows designers to reach the final customer, and what this dialogue means to the industry. It doesn’t affect the intricacy of the design process, as it must still be about the woman who wears it and should not become about pictures. But it does allow us to communicate quickly and directly, and get instant feedback. In fashion this is so important.
Thuy: What did you want your e-store to achieve?
Sharon: We want it to be a special experience, yet also practical. There are exclusive products being developed for online, and also it gives us an intimate way to communicate with our customers. The image must have the same integrity that we apply to the show or even the collection.
Thuy: On the design and merchandising side, do you have different considerations for your e-store?
Sharon: It’s definitely, like much of fashion, a team effort, so although I am the designer and allowed a lot of say, I am also listening and learning. The image must have the same integrity that we apply to the show or even the collection.
Thuy: I understand you relaunched your bag line.
Sharon: It’s actually a first launch, although I designed for Louis Vuitton, I had not launched our own bags. I now felt we are at the right stage with our core business and the time seemed instinctively right. They are ‘everyday luxury’ easy to use yet special. The touch is so important. Carrying the Mongolian fur makes you feel cozy and special. They retail between $700 and $800.
Thuy: Is the design process different than RTW?
Sharon: Certainly. Accessories are different, and it’s so easy to have fun with the bags.
The materials and colours.. it’s easy to be adventurist!
Thuy: What is next for Shauron Wauchob?
Sharon: Lots of traveling. New projects outside Europe. This month I will be in Tokyo and New York….so let’s see.
Designer Website: www.sharonwauchob.com
Other Installments of T-Time: Wenlan Chia