Global Young Designer Spotlight: MaisonCléo
Here, Marie talks about her working relationship with her mother, the importance of price transparency and her frustrations with big labels’ unsustainable approach to fashion.
12 March, 2019
This story begins with a love affair; one between fashion-savvy Instagrammers and a deliciously puff-sleeved white cotton blouse. Quickly making its way onto our Explore page via the clothing rails of Leandra Medine and Emily Ratajkowski, MaisonCléo has fast become the name on every fashion editor's lips (and clothing tag).
Marie and Cléo Dewet, the mother-daughter duo behind the now-iconic label, maintain a unique ethos and steadfast approach to sustainability. Creating anti-fast-fashion pieces, nothing goes to waste - even off-cuts are made into adorable matching scrunchies that come with every order.
Here, Marie talks about her working relationship with her mother, the importance of price transparency and her frustrations with big labels' unsustainable approach to fashion.
Type of brand:
Where did the name MaisonCléo come from?
Cléo was my mother's nickname when she was my age; she had short, dark hair and wore gold jewellery and black eyeliner, like Cleopatra. Old friends still call her Cléo.
Tell us about your family history in fashion.
My great, great grandmother Louise, was a well-known seamstress in the north of France. She had her own couture workshop and was the head of a group of seamstresses. People from Paris used to go to the north just to have their clothes tailored by her. Later, my grandmother and mother became professional seamstresses too. My mother also owned her own workshop before we created MaisonCléo.
When did fashion first spark your interest?
My mother bought me a copy of Vogue magazine when I was about 14 and I fell in love. I cut out all the pictures and stuck everything on my walls; I started following fashion slavishly from that moment.
What is MaisonCléo's approach to fashion?
Sustainable. I wanted to create a brand that only created pieces that were made-to-order and used natural or repurposed fabrics. Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world - it is total nonsense to make pieces in advance or produce fabric without knowing the demand beforehand.
What do you and your mother bring to the label as individuals?
I don't know how to sew - my mother gave me a sewing lesson last week as she bought a new machine - and she he doesn't know much about artistic direction. So, we are essential for each other.
The Agnes blouse is probably your most iconic piece, but which is your favourite?
It's always the last piece we've made because I can't wait to show it to our clients. Currently, it's a large-sleeved cotton buttoned shirt - one of our spring pieces.
MaisonCléo is very transparent about their costs, why?
I choose to detail the price breakdown on each product page because when I used to work for big brands I was shocked by the large margins they take on the cost of production and the cost of fabric. I know what polyester costs - those big-brand prices just aren't right.
How does your mother's style differ from your own?
Both of us only buy second-hand items, but my mother doesn't care about trends at all - that's where I come in.
Talk us through your creative process.
I never draw things in advance. We purchase our fabrics from couture houses, designers or factory leftovers, so I never know what we're going to find. The fabric we use will determine the garment's touch and its fall, so it's only when I feel and see a fabric that an idea comes to mind. After that, I go to my mum's workshop with the fabric and my drawing. When she doesn't like my idea, she'll say, "Are you really sure...?" and then we debate it - we have a lot of fun. Finally, she makes the prototype fitted to my body.
Your brand aesthetic is rooted in France. Whereabouts in Lille do you find inspiration for your pieces?
I find a lot of inspiration in my grandmother's dressing room - she has an entire room filled with all her clothes, the majority of which she's made herself. I find lots of flowers, colours and ruffles there. I'm also inspired by the outside world in general and the women and girls I see on the streets, whatever their age.
What does your average day in Lille look like?
Alongside MaisonCléo, I still work every day at the Vestiaire Collective office in Lille, as manager of the VIP and concierge team. I'll work at Vestiaire from 6am to 1.45pm, then I spend the afternoons and evenings working on MaisonCléo. I work with my assistant in Lille and with my mother on the phone, because she still lives in Calais. I take care of the brand's image and source all the leftover fabrics. Then I'll spend Friday to Sunday in Calais with my mother to work on new prototypes. I never really stop working.
Favourite places you've visited…
The south of France, the west coast of Italy and Switzerland, which is where the other half of my family lives.
What advice would you give people who are trying to become more sustainable shoppers?
Before buying anything new, try to find it vintage.
What is your most-loved item of jewellery?
A gold necklace that my grandfather gave me. It belonged to his daughter who passed away at the age of 12. It's my greatest treasure; I wear it every day.
What are your favourite shops to find vintage treasures?
In Lille, my favourite is Vintage Store on Rue de la Barre. On the internet, the Los Feliz Shop is my go-to - the owner Nadia has become a friend of mine.
Any past trends you'd like to see make a comeback in 2019?
What's in your SUITCASE?
My camera, a notebook for drawing, and at least two books because now I only have time to read when I travel. Plus, lots of sunscreen!
Finally, when can we get our hands on the mini "wedding dress" you've been teasing in your Instagram stories?
I'm not too sure yet - but probably in June.