Designer To Know

Paul & Joe

With a love for fashion and a helpful dose of family footing in the industry to spur her on, Sophie Mechaly founded Paul & Joe without a concrete plan, but with an iron will and a desire to create a new and original brand. Twenty-three years later, Paul & Joe still stands strong in the contemporary Parisian fashion landscape, with a distinctive vision of what constitutes the ideal wardrobe for men and women. 

by Siska Lyssens
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Starting out in 1995, after studying at the French Institute of Fashion, Sophie Mechaly was determined to be different from what she saw around her. She succeeded. Paul & Joe continues to be a brand women and men flock to for a sense of individualism and authenticity, an insouciant rock’n’roll touch that also contains elegance.
Making menswear as a female designer, for one thing, was already an almost unheard of idea at the time. But for Mechaly, this was an advantage: ‘The female eye is objective’, she explains. ‘We want to sublimate the men who surround us.’ And so she named her brand after her two sons, and masterfully balanced out her life as a mother and business owner. Not shying away from admitting it wasn’t always easy, she lets us in on how she made it work by ‘working by priority and solving the difficulties one by one.’

Arm yourself with courage, make the most of your talent and build a good network.
What are the things you’ve learned after three decades in the fashion industry?
It is necessary to persevere, to advance with passion and to avoid repeating oneself. Doubt is sometimes present, but you have to trust your ideas.

What advice would you give designers who are looking to found their own companies today?
Arm yourself with courage, make the most of your talent and build a good network.

You’ve said before that the brand is a reflection of yourself; with even the stores designed like your own apartment. How would you describe your personal style?
My style is eclectic and certainly not minimalist! I mix genres: references to childhood, modernism, baroque, animal, etc. I put everything together on a simple basis, but with an unusual and colourful touch.

Has your way of working changed over these twenty-three years?
You have to surround yourself with more and more young people, with pre-fall, resort and seasonal shows there are more collections than before and therefore more work.

What is your favourite part of the (working) day?
When I come back home! Just kidding. That would be the collection meetings, when we work on inspirations, fabric choices, fittings and looks. This is when you really create.

What do you like to do to relax?
I like doing sports. I really like going to the gym - but I also like to stay at home, watch series and read.

Do you enjoy online shopping?
I shop online to see the selections and have a preview, but I buy very little. I prefer to go to the store to touch the product, to have contact with people, to feel the atmosphere, to observe the outfits and reactions of women. I also move around a lot when I’m in my own shops.

Is Paul & Joe planning any more store openings?
Yes, we are opening a flagship store in Shanghai. The brand is experiencing a big development in South East Asia.

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