In just three seasons, Etre Cécile has become a cult presence in the fashion landscape by dint of extremely clever design and a confident brand strategy. Pre-AW14 is out soon (don’t ask. Fashion is weird) and the campaign says it all: check the jolie-laide model with her scrappy blonde hair and big teeth cutting awkward poses. Etre Cécile is for the girl with chutzpah, who likes a laugh and doesn’t give a fig, says this campaign. So how much do we love Etre Cécile? Let us count the ways.
1. One moment, no one had heard of it.
The next moment, in classic off-duty model style, Cara Delevingne was snapped wearing it backstage at Paris Fashion Week last March – at the same time that brand and buying supremo Yasmin Sewell was spotted wearing it, typically stylishly, on the front rows. After that, everyone had to have it. Talk about creating an insider moment.
2. No one knew who’s behind it.
This is what the website said: ‘être cécile was founded by four individuals whose dream was to create a unique T-shirt collective inspired by French style and clean aesthetics. These four individuals would like their identity to remain anonymous allowing the focus to be on the quality and integrity of the collection.’ Now Yasmin Sewell, along with Jemma Dyas and both their partners have announced that they are the founders.
3. They’re very good at what they do.
In March 2013, in an article entitled ‘Cara Delevingne Introduces New Label Cécile’, vogue.co.uk described the founders as a ‘small group of experienced industry experts’. It shows. The development of an identifiable but flexible aesthetic (animal print, foil colours, attitude, wit) and the confident approach to brand building are the mark of experience.
4. We do know two things about it.
‘Cécile’ is the name of one of the founder’s grandmothers, ‘an Irish-born artist, living in 1960’s Paris, with a love of animal prints and a creative flair for fashion.’ In the absence of anything else about the brand’s founders, this fact is quoted ad infinitum. The other thing? Yasmin Sewell has often been quoted as the brand’s ‘consultant’. Interesting ….
5. It plays the Parisian connection to perfection.
Cécile may have lived in Paris but apparently, the brand is conceived by non-Parisians. Once you know that, signature slogans ‘Presque Parisian’, ‘Bad Ass Paris’ and ‘Mangetout’ take on a vaguely wistful air – as if the founders would actually quite like to live in Paris, in the 1960s and be an artist. Rather like Cécile, actually.
6. It’s nailed chic streetwear with a twist.
Look through Etre Cécile past and present and you’ll see that the iconography is pretty much spot on, with references aplenty – to French New Wave, prep school style, some schools of modern art. In the vogue.co.uk piece, the founders described the brand as ‘bold, luxe street, French and not too serious with a side of mange tout’. Yup.
7. This spring, it partnered up with Richie Culver.
‘My main mistakes was staying logged on’, ‘you make my hard drive full,’ ‘I don’t wanna date you I just wana copy and paste you’: cult writer and artist Culver takes the brand into harder territory with sketchily drafted responses to the perils of lives lived digitally. Etre Cécile gets un peu political?
8. Every piece is easy to wear.
T-shirts, bombers, sweats: everything would look amazing over a pair of a beaten up old jeans – or a pencil skirt. This makes them wardrobe staples. The designs make them statement pieces. The slogans are cool, and the prints are mind-blowing. SS14 was a blast of four leaf clovers, monochrome, animal, arrows and dots. Staple and statement simultaneously? Sacre bleu!
9. It’s become shorthand for being in the know.
Once glance at the decorated wannabes at the backs of fashion shows will tell you how tricky this is. Etre Cécile makes it simple. Throw an Etre Cécile t-shirt or sweat under a leather jacket and you’re at the front of the queue. After all, you’re wearing the same brand as Cara, Yasmin and uber blogger Susie Bubble. And if they can’t tell you what’s going on, no one can.
10. For pre-AW14, out soon as summer hits, the brand branches out.
It began with t-shirts, now it’s denim jackets, skirts and masculine tailoring, all breathlessly anticipated ready-to-wear pieces designed to take the brand onto the next level. There’s a new slogan ‘French Fury’ and To Be (from Etre, geddit?) and a new symbol, a fleur de lis, but – like all great brands – the spirit stays the same. Vive la France.