Interview: Judith Milgrom for Maje
French luxury streetwear label Maje has become a favorite amongst some of fashion’s most followed It girls. Founder Judith Milgrom speaks with L’Officiel Singapore on Maje’s Asia plans.
Paris is one of fashion’s capitals and the appeal of its effortless, sophisticated sensibility extends far beyond its borders. With the city’s instantly-recognizable flair ingrained in its DNA, French streetwear label Maje’s signature feminine touch – toughed up by a bohemian edge – has won the hearts of women across the globe, including a seal of approval from Brit ‘It’ girl Alexa Chung. Now with eyes set on elevating its presence in Asia, the label opened its first Southeast Asian boutique in Singapore last year. Our friends at L’Officiel Singapore speak with founder Judith Milgrom on Maje’s recent expansion in Asia, her inspirations and design process.
Maje is very much a family affair, with its name taking after the initials of your family members. Names aside, do your collections draw inspiration from the way they dress as well?
No they don’t, even though we share a similar fashion sense. We have the same taste for beautifully-made garments and I definitely keep that in mind when I create my collections. I pay a lot of attention to details, embroideries and embellishments. My family has always been my anchor and the most important part of my life. I was introduced to craftsmanship by my mother and my grandmother. When I started working in fashion, it was with my sister. Of course they were an influence in my younger days but I’m very proud of what I have created with my own brand.
Who is the girl you have in mind when designing for Maje?
My inspiration comes from the women I observe when I walk around Paris or other main fashion capitals. I enjoy depicting how they dress and mix pieces, how they walk, that inspires me to create collections that fit their everyday lifestyle.
If you had to curate the Maje girl’s wardrobe into a collection of only three pieces, which would you pick?
A super feminine dress, twisted with a leather biker jacket and a clutch.
Now that you are expanding to Asia, with stores in Hong Kong and now, Singapore, how do you think the Asian market is different from the European market?
In Europe and especially in France, women know precisely what suits them and what they want. In addition, they are familiar with the brand and have seen it in the press or in stores for a few years. Maje is still new in Asia so clients are discovering the brand. It seems like the Asian client, rather than picking pieces that she likes, relies a lot on what celebrities wear. They come in the store showing photos of influencers and asking for entire outfits.
Is there anything that you are doing differently in Asia to cater to the needs of the people here?
My designs and collections aren’t any different from one country to another. Maje collections offer elegant pieces with subtle, offbeat details that stick to the French woman’s image and yet can be embodied anywhere. It is the savoir-faire, the finesse, the original prints and details that made the difference and Maje’s success, so why change it?
To people who are unfamiliar with Maje, can you sum it up in a sentence?
It is a Paris-based, cool and chic fashion brand that offers super trendy and original yet affordable collections to women worldwide.
Take us through the design process of your Fall ’15 collection, where did you draw your inspiration from?
I follow a rather conventional method: I work with my style team; we prepare mood boards and themes, then start drawing the first sketches. We have an atelier within our Paris office, which means our creative process is very much like that of the couture designers: all the prototypes, the fittings and the adjustments are done in-house with our pattern-makers and seamstresses. This allows me to have a precise rendering of what I want, with the right cuts and measurements. The Fall-Winter ’15 collection was inspired by an urban woman who needs structured pieces for work as well as cocooning and comfortable pieces for home.
In the fashion industry, Maje fits in as the bridge between high street and high fashion, is that a position that will be shifting anytime soon?
I don’t think so! This is precisely what Maje is so popular for: offering women the latest catwalk trends at an affordable price.
How has Maje changed since it was first established and how can we expect it to change in the coming years?
Maje has changed so much over the years! My brother and I started in a tiny room, creating styles for other brands; then we created our own collections and sold them in multibrand stores. A few years later, the brand is part of a powerful international group. We position ourselves as one of the leading, accessible luxury brands. We are currently working on the accessories line and this is a major challenge for us.
I’m not sure what’s to come in the next few years but what we’ve achieved in the past few years is beyond all our expectations so I simply hope we can continue to develop the brand worldwide.
If there is a message that you’re trying to put across through your collections, what is it?
I have no particular motto when it comes to fashion except that every woman should know what makes her feel good, comfortable and beautiful.
Which are your favorite pieces from the collection?
Probably the oversized ponchos because they’re so warm and comfy. For a more sophisticated look, I would pick the fringed leather skirt.
The Maje aesthetic seems to have a strong bohemian influence. Do you have an icon who you are strongly influenced by?
One icon I often refer to is Audrey Hepburn whose pure, natural style and beauty inspires me, even though her style was not bohemian. She became a fashion icon thanks to her attitude rather than because of a product. Many people inspire me but my tastes often depend on the collections and the message I want to convey. The bohemian influence in my collections is reflected by the savoir-faire and the embellishments.
How does Maje set itself apart from its sister brand, Sandro?
Sandro is more androgynous and sophisticated whereas Maje has fun and cool pieces, yet remains very desirable and glamorous.
Do you have a design mantra or motto that you live by?
Again, I don’t have a particular mantra but on a general level, I would say “believe in yourself yet always remain humble”.
By Kames Narayanan