New York fashion has never stopped surprising the world with its revolutionary phenomena as the “flapper” of the 1920s, Bell-bottoms and Halston designs in the 1970s and Norma Kamali with her Sweat Collection in the 1980s. Today, in the era of hypermodernity, the New York based women’s luxury wear brand La Doyenne is a true reformer of the established fashion system, conceiving its own hybrid of luxurious haute couture and high end fashion.
Co-Founders, Laura Day Webb and Rachel Hearn searched for a name that would embody the woman who wears the brand finding it in The French connotation of La Doyenne which denotes a woman who is a leader in her field. Odalisque Magazine had a pleasant telephone conversation with the co-founder Laura and enjoyed her captivating story about how La Doyenne is making accessible luxury for the modern woman.
Created by women, for women and being about women, La Doyenne bestows a joyful aesthetic experience mixed with a contrasting feeling of integrity and eagerness, spiced with a slight pinch of the Italian celebration. According to Laura, the fashion house is primarily using e-commerce as a retail channel, accentuating personal-service strategy, hand-made garments, and custom designed art prints on their fabrics and linings. Their goal is, by means of small collections, a defined number of designs and a wide array of sizing options, to create unique and elegant garments with an intimate touch for a specific person, who “fully embraces life, much as she does her own aesthetics”. It takes about a week to produce an order and later ship it to a consumer or a retail customer, who La Doyenne also work with.
The Spring Collection 2018 was La Doyenne’s first collection, inspired by Laura’s wedding dress, which Rachel and Laura crafted together, and built on their shared passion for the arts. The flowing aristocratic silhouettes and vivid colours are galvanized by, as Marlene Dietrich once expressed, “the most beautiful woman who ever set foot in Hollywood”, a Mexican actress and great muse of many artists and poets, Dolores del Rio. The collection was launched with the participation of the Brooklyn Ballet dancers, who served as models and performed throughout the evening for the attendees in La Doyenne's coats. Such partnership, as Laura acknowledges, “Created a beautiful marriage of fashion and art, across multiple disciplines.”
Creating a playful diversity, the brand’s latest collection, The Transitional Collection with its loose constructions and architectonic beauty brings the postmodern woman out in a new chic and multi-faceted context, where silhouettes can easily transition seamlessly from a ball gown to a pair of jeans. With such a myriad of ways to wear the garments in the collection, the woman becomes the CEO of her own style. Furthermore, the zeitgeist of the collection is constituted by Rachel’s intriguing oil painting of a still life, which has been skilfully integrated into the textiles that the collection is made of.
Seemingly, the luxury of the brand is hidden in the laconic completeness of the details and the masterful quality of the craftsmanship. Moreover, there is also an element of charity integrated into their business model, with La Doyenne taking into consideration voluntary giving as part of their strategy and a means of positively impacting their community and beyond. Particularly, Laura and Rachel are aiming through their business model to empower women by working on multiple partnerships with well-established charities around the world, along with fundraising initiatives with various museums.
By working with a made-to-order business model, the company also make an important investment in the sustainability issue. They can plan their production resources and costs in detail, allowing them to have less inventory, minimise and recycle leftovers, and thereby reduce the impact of the production process on the environment. When I ask Laura what La Doyenne’s next collection will be inspired by, I hear her smiling on the other side of the phone and she answers, “We have already started brainstorming. It will have a few new silhouettes in play and certainly no detail will be left wanting. So, wait and see!”
Nevertheless, the young luxury brand has to struggle with a number of challenges in the industry. One of the main issues is visibility. It is not easy to establish a unique voice on social media and stay true to your vision, but by focusing on sustainable quality and genuine transferrable elegance, La Doyenne is truly optimistic about their future. “Luxury fashion should be accessible!” claims Laura. There is a special relationship established between a beautifully made garment and the woman who owns it, allowing the piece to evolve with the woman’s sense of style and be worn across a lifetime. Therefore La Doyenne focuses on that feeling instead of trends. Having international customers in Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, Laura and Rachel want to engage a global audience, affording women the opportunity to feel passionate about their own wardrobe, not the ephemeral trends outside.