‘I don’t believe in having a big strategy’: Morgane Sézalory on Sézane’s U.S. expansion

Paris native Morgane Sézalory isn’t afraid of braving new territory.

In 2013, five years after launching popular vintage site Les Composantes, she debuted Sézane — a contraction of her first and last name — an accessible luxury line that doubled as Paris’s first e-commerce fashion brand. Two years later, she opened L’Appartement, a 3,000-square-foot brick-and-mortar store on Rue Saint Fiacre. On Thursday, disregarding local retail woes, she’s opening a second location in New York City’s hip Nolita neighborhood.

Like the Paris store, the new L’Appartement is modeled after a home, and features items far beyond Sézane’s seasonal collections. Think: The Apartment by The Line and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s The Row boutique, but with a French twist. Shoppers will find home decor, stationary, books and even Parisian chocolates.

L’Appartement’s launch comes as other European retailers are growing their presence in the states, including fast-fashion giants H&M, Zara and Primark, Britain’s The White Company and Amsterdam-based Scotch & Soda. Considering the available storefronts, there’s much opportunity. For Sézalory, the decision to expand seemed effortless.

“I don’t believe in having a big strategy,” she said. “It was a good place, at a good time.”

Sézalory shared how she promoted Sézane pre-Instagram, why she believes in physical retail and what she defines as the secret to covetable “French girl” style.

What inspired the Sézane clothing line?
When I was 18, I started a vintage clothing business. I did that for two or three years, and discovered I had a fascination with fashion, and with fabric and color. I set out to offer is the best styles at the best prices, and in 2013, Sézane was born. Today, I want women to find pieces they’ve always looked for, but could never find — or maybe they could find them before, but they were too expensive. Each piece is made with so much love and patience, in Paris.

What was behind its early success?
We’re a brand that grew by word of mouth. When I started it 12 years ago, there weren’t any bloggers or influencers, and no one believed you could create a big brand online. When Facebook first launched, it was free; I was able to grow the brand there, before you had to pay for it. Because people loved the product, they kept sharing the “secret” of the brand to their friends. It became quite a big entity in Europe, and it happened very organically.

Why open a storefront three years after launch?
It was very important for me to give shoppers a way to understand and experience the brand. It’s easy to do with a physical store. I am able to host events, tell a unique story with a look and smell. You know when you are a little girl and you play store? I feel like a little girl.

How would you describe your store in Paris?
It’s a destination. It’s very unique, very big, very cool. We named it L’Appartement, because it doesn’t look like just a boutique — it’s like a very beautiful home. There’s a movie theater, a library. We want people to fee free to stay and read a book, and have a coffee.

L’Appartement in Paris

How will the NYC store compare?
It’s a lifestyle store where they can always discover things. It’s similar to the Paris store, but there are differences: For instance, in the lifestyle section, I wanted there to be a selection of French items — books, chocolates. It’s mostly about fashion — bags, shoes and clothing. I love the neighborhood. It feels European — and also like you’re going to a mall, with all the shops. It’s the perfect mix of Sézane and the U.S.

What is your brick-and-mortar strategy, moving forward?
I just want one very unique place in each of the cities I love, and in cities where I feel like people will love the brand. We are a digital brand, and we will keep being a digital brand. We can offer the best products for the best price, because we don’t have 100 shops. Also, I’m obsessed with good quality, good style and good service, and that’s hard to scale. If you open a shop on every street, at some point, [shoppers] don’t feel any desire for a brand. They feel like everyone can have it.

And your social strategy?
You have to be careful there, too. Sometimes when you look at Instagram, it’s like, “OK, everyone is wearing the same thing and eating the same thing.” You know how it’s so good to travel and to try something new — like a new shop or a new brand? I want Sézane to be that kind of source. We can stay special, even if we’re global and on Instagram.

What do you think about Americans’ obsession with French style?
It’s funny to see how girls just love it. There is something very timeless about French style, and that’s the idea behind Sézane, French girls don’t wear a lot of makeup, and we invest in just a few, good-quality pieces. The the main thing is, French women always try to present that they didn’t make an effort in the way they look. If you want to look more Parisian, don’t brush your hair too much or wear too much makeup. Even if you want to wear something very glamorous, mix it with something effortless.

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