On 24-27 May 2017, Milan is welcoming Marithé + François Girbaud’s new project – Mad Lane. Designer and co-founder Marithé Bachellerie, part of the duo M+F Girbaud, is hardly answering journalists’ questions, though in this case she spoke with SI and explained how their new direct-to-consumer project originated, why it is so innovative and how true fans of the brand travel to buy their clothes (also see how co-founder and partner François Girbaud previously referred to their project here).
How long have you been working with François Girbaud?
We met in 1967 and since then always worked together. We have always focused on finding new cuts, new silhouettes and trendsetting lifestyles expressed through clothes and jeans. We always experimented a lot in developing new materials and new techniques. For instance, we have started employing laser for cutting fabrics 25 years ago. Also our collaboration with Sensitive Fabrics by Eurojersey started 20 years ago and we continue to employ it in this new project, too, and bond it with new membranes for new comfort and functionality...
How do you work and share your tasks? For instance, François is often giving interviews. You do it less often. How do you manage all of this?
He usually takes over the most creative part of the work – and he is most often looking for something that doesn’t exist. I am also a designer, but I mostly take care of the engineering and the construction of the product and about commercial aspects. Women always tend to focus on most practical aspects...For instance, I choose fabrics, he rather thinks of styles and silhouettes...Though we always develop the collection together.
You have always taken innovative paths. It looks like that you are starting a new business model for Mad Lane as well. How was it born?
In 2014, the company that managed the distribution of our brand faced difficulties and went bankrupt. When we were closing that business we sold all unsold stock from our past collection. I remember that in those days in front of our Paris store there were lots of people queuing and waiting for hours - from 9am until 6pm and asked us not to stop M+FG. “You cannot do this to us,” they complained. And others told us: “We will buy these pants until we die!”
For this, in 2015 we decided to take a new direction and founded Mad Lane. We sat down with three other partners who could help us making product and had it produced. We decided to create a “collective” by auto-financing ourselves. That’s how we started our own brand again.
How did you find your clients?
We started going through lists of stores that sold our brand. We went through lists of customers’ names and got in touch with fans of the brands through social networks. Then we started doing some kind of trunk shows through which we could sell to consumers directly.
How many people are buying your brand now?
We have reached now our third season of activity and sell directly to our fan base of about 4,000 people. I think there are about 1,200-1,400 in Paris only, 300 people in cities like Lyon, and about 150 in smaller cities. But there are also people who find out that we are selling in a city and travel to visit us there to buy our clothes. Until now we have involved a total of 20 cities. In Paris, for instance, we have been so successful that we now are selling every first Thursday of the month. We have also started selling in Belgium, and are debuting in Italy right now. We will also launch our first trunk show in Germany in October 2017.
Do you also sell via e-commerce?
Not yet, but from 25 June 2017 we will be launching or own website that will also work as an e-commerce platform (http://girbaud.com/). It will be charcaterised by a very innovative design as we want visitors to “enter” and see our garments from the inside and from the outside by showing 3-d photos of our clothes and make them experience those pieces’ intrinsic quality and beauty. They will be photographed and displayed as if they were worn though floating and empty.
What is the collection like and how did its name originate?
We chose the name Mad Lane as we wanted to keep a clear reference to our French origins and also pay homage to Proust, focusing on the idea of memories and keeping the idea alive to continue working as artists. For this we liked the double meaning of the Mad Lane expression, also literary meaning “crazy path”.
Can you describe the collection? What delivery rhythms do you follow?
We are not following traditional seasons, but rather constantly launch new pieces. Most of what we offer (about 75%) is non-seasonal and can be worn all year long, though we also offer down-jackets and coats for winter and tops for summer. The collection counts about 150 pieces, for both men and women. All pieces are made with stretch and highly comfortable materials as they are aimed to be worn every day, but also when cycling or moving from one part to the other part of the city. We focused on offering products characterized by top productive techniques and materials, in single strata or bonded with additional functional membranes. Almost all outer jackets can be worn on both sides as cut with laser, thermos-sealed and bonded with constrating color tapes, completed with highly refined detailing and without any exposed stitchings. We also offer high-quality knitwear pieces and denim. This last part of the collection offers four jeans for men and four for women. Each of the garments we offer can also be personalized with laser treatments and patterns engraved upon request at the moment of purchase. The collection is all manufactured in Tunisia, Portugal and Italy. Main hue of the collection is black added with accents of blue and red.
What about prices?
A pair of stretch trousers for women costs about €260 up to €350, while the average price for a man’s model is €480. Jeans cost €290 for both men and women. Women’s jackets cost €350-€520, while a trench can cost between €780 up to €1350.