Fashion designer Danielle Ribner decided to follow her guts and fulfill a much sought after dream when she was just 24: to found her own women’s fashion brand. That was back in 2009, after she quit her former job as design assistant at Jones Apparel Group, a mass market women’s company where she learned everything about making clothes and how the production cycle works for one and a half years.
Ribner’s brainchild was Loup, French for “wolf”, which pays somehow tribute to the land and look of her admired stars such as Brigitte Bardot and Françoise Hardy. The clothes that she designs are fiercely wearable, betting on classic closet staples like culottes, jumpsuits, knits and blouses featuring vintage details and mostly plain colors or prints without stridencies. All garments are manufactured in factories in New York’s Garment district, where Ribner is personally acquainted with everyone.
After building up a large list of stockists mostly in the US but also in Canada, Japan and South Korea, Ribner opened up the doors of the brand’s first-ever physical space yesterday: a pop-up store at New York's Lower East Side that will remain open for five days, selling Loup’s fall/winter’16 collection. Just before the official store opening took place, we talked with Danielle about the reasons behind testing own retail, the brand’s bestsellers and the brand’s Instagram account, a delightful and inspirational medley of ‘90s supermodel shots and old French- and Hollywood actresses and musicians in their leisure time outfits.
How come it’s taken you seven years to test own retail with a pop-up store?
I felt a little nervous. I didn’t know if there was actually a need for a physical store when we have an online one and I get to reach people all over the world, so making a store in New York seemed too small. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I‘ve never gotten to show in real life what the brand is. So it seemed like the right time to test it.
It’s a great exercise as owner of the company to try to put into reality something that has only existed online. I had all these ideas popping up over the past few years and now it’s just time to show it to everybody. Besides, a big part of my customer base lives in New York.
I know it’s too early to talk about the outcome, but in case the pop-up experience works well, is it possible that there will be more pop-up stores in the pipeline in the US?
I’d really love to do some more. I still have a big customer base in California and on the West Coast. If it works well, the next step will be to open more pop-up stores over there and maybe eventually have a flagship store somewhere.
Where does your passion for all things French come from?
I’ve always had it. I’ve always loved watching old French movies and looking at pictures of the icons: Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin. I think in general a lot of Americans still have that fascination with French style.
What are your current bestselling pieces?
We have the Sabrina and the Gabrielle pants and they are for sure our most popular items. They fit very well, are a bit high-waisted and cropped. We keep them in store as they literally fly out. We also do well with overalls for years. I thought maybe the trend will go away but people actually like the idea of having something comfortable, a little different and kind of a one-piece outfit. Additional the Workman jacket, which is one of those old French workmen-inspired jackets. We update the design of these pieces every season a little bit, so that if you want to buy another pair of pants you have a reason to do it.
How important is denim for the brand?
Over the years I’ve been focusing more and more. Denim always sells the best. People trust the fabric, they know that it is comfortable.
What is the percentage of sales taking place via your online store?
At this point, it’s really like a 50/50 ratio with the wholesale business.
Wow, it’s fantastic that you sell half of your goods through your own webshop, given the fact that you don’t advertise or do a lot of marketing activities.
Yes. We have a good following on social media, but we aren’t the most followed brand. So it’s nice to know that people are coming to our ecommerce because they like the brand, they heard of it or simply trust it. Besides, the fact that pants are our bestsellers is kind of a reputation builder.
Your Instagram account is a beautiful compilation of images from old movie stars, models and other style icons. How do you manage to find all these archive pearls? Do you usually draw inspiration from the old days?
My favorite thing to do is to look at old photographs and old inspirational things. My whole phone and my whole computer is full of these images –it’s never ending. In the meanwhile, friends and people who like the company tag the brand (Editor’s note: #loupinspiration) in all these pictures or send them to me all the time.
I do really find inspiration from things from the past. I think there’s something really special about seeing someone like Audrey Hepburn on her day-off wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and how she styled it. There’s something really magical about seeing people’s personal style and how it’s still relevant today despite of being worn sixty years ago.