Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Modern Femme Fatale | An interview with Laura Sfez of L'ecole des Femmes

Who is Laura Sfez?

I'm a woman, I suppose, and then an artist. I see art all over the place, even in things that I hate. I never embraced that until now, so I'm busy catching up with myself. I'm what you see and extremely grateful that people seem to enjoy what I do. 

How did L'ecole des Femmes come to fruition and what does it mean to you?

L'ecole des Femmes came to fruition many years ago when I was 25. It was an instant hit, and then I tucked it away over the years. My mother suggested I should get a shop in 2011, and the madness began. I always designed and art directed, but didn't shoot until I had the shop. I couldn't afford the photographers I wanted so I decided to do it myself. Through that I was able to express the vision better than I ever had before and to bring it to life. L'ecole des femmes is a world that I am building brick by brick. It means a great deal that I can express myself and make women feel good about themselves at the same time. I think L'ecole des Femmes is for bold women with a different and unusual sense of style. 

How would you describe your personal style?

My personal style is somewhat androgynous as I am very much a woman, but with a strong masculine side. I love wearing jeans and a t shirt. But I also want to experience knee socks and suspenders and peter pan collars and what it would be like to be so many characters I've often seen in beautiful movies. I love high heels, and I love stockings. I am not one for following trends however. 

Do you have any personal style icons that inspire you?

My mother has always had tremendous style. Picture Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg together. It is in fact the direction that I want L'ecole des Femmes to head in. 

 What is it you love about French fashion and the idea of the femme fatale? 

I absolutely love Parisian street fashion at its most basic, over anything that belongs and is on a runway. I love that a femme fatale relies on her looks and does not need to pump up the volume with lipstick and bullshit prom up dos. 

French fashion evokes a sense of effortlessness and natural beauty. I love that I can wear a trench and heels and automatically look and feel like a woman. A woman that demands respect. Because I do. The Parisian woman has imperfections and perhaps even bags under her eyes and a raspy voice from smoking. I'd fall in love with that any day over an American woman with capped teeth and an obsession with color coordination. Effortlessness is key to making a woman sexy in my opinion. 

 A lot of your pieces are very classic. How hard is it to keep that classic style but bring it into the modern age and remain unique?

Thank you for saying that. Its actually very easy to me. I design what I love and what I'd like to wear and its usually classic because its already in my head based on past memories of films and people I've seen and known growing up. It is all about the styling and the way it is shot that makes it edgy and therefore more modern. I hope the style is unique. There is a very particular recipe and I have many boundaries in terms of what I find appealing and acceptable. 

Your brand has a very sexy, confident and feminine vibe to it. How important is it to you that women feel not only sexy but powerful?

Power is the sexiest quality on earth. To feel sexy is one thing, but without power, it can be scary for a woman in this world we live in. Sexy is very often misinterpreted and not respected as it should because a lot of women want to be sexy but cross the line and may become trashy if not mindful of the buttons she pushes. Push the right ones and you can have both power AND sexy. And to me, it is VERY important to convey that and to make women feel this way because I know how good it feels and we owe it to ourselves to feel this way because none else will do it for us. 

 What are your 5 staple pieces you cannot live without?

My black Trench coat, heels with ankle straps, a beautiful lacy cotton white french bra, stockings, and my belle de jour dress. 

What makes L'ecole des Femmes different to other fashion stores? 

The store itself is very traditional in the sense that I personally dress each 
customer and make recommendations based on the feeling I pick up from each woman who comes in. The pieces are very classic and often crucial items that can't be found anywhere else. For instance, what the fashion world calls, a "cocktail dress" or an "lbd" I like to design to be instead, a " bond girl dress." I also keep classic pieces in the store that will always remain in the line. Other fashion stores turn out each season, I like to design in the effort to attain a sense of timelessness in each item. 

 Who would be playing on the soundtrack to your life?

Eminem for sure and Serge Gainsbourg. I have both rage and poetry in me. 

When you're not running L'ecole des Femmes what are you doing? 

Funny you should say that, I run! I run four times a week and love it. When I'm not working, 
I'm shooting and when I'm not doing that I'm running. 

Who are some of your personal favorite brands and designers? 

Jean Paul Gaultier in the 80's -90's , Galliano, Miu Miu... 
Sonia Rykiel and of course, Coco Chanel. 

© Todd Hido 

 What can we expect from L'ecole des Femmes in the future?

You can expect sportswear and denim. Denim will be my new love story soon and I hope you will like it.