PARIS — Meet Françoise, the new solo act of Johanna Senyk, who has decided to put Wanda Nylon on hold for personal reasons.
For her new venture, Senyk has partnered with the Mantova, Italy-based manufacturer Castor Srl to develop, produce and distribute the women’s collection. The bags are licensed to Italy’s Siloe, which produces leather goods for a number of leading luxury brands.
“When I met the all-woman team behind Castor, we hit it off immediately,” Senyk told WWD. The designer, who scooped the main ANDAM prize in 2016 with Wanda Nylon, also read the fact that Castor had produced Martin Margiela’s collections around the time he won the ANDAM award in 1989 as “a sign.”
Senyk said the aim was to combine old school Italian know-how with French taste. For the new brand, she dreamt up an imaginary character, based on the idea of an ultrasophisticated French woman who is more into creating her own look than following trends.
“She’s not too young, she’s a working girl who buys her clothes with the money she owns, she drives, she’s free. She is extremely feminine — she would never wear a fanny pack, even if they were in. She likes appropriating masculine codes, and she likes things that last,” she explained.
The collection will be presented via one-on-one appointments in Milan and Paris during the cities’ respective fashion weeks. Whereas Wanda Nylon was strong on outerwear, having emerged as a cult rainwear label, Françoise is big on dresses, with Senyk leveraging Castor’s fabric stock, archives and pattern-making know-how for inspiration.
Styles include a one-off patchwork dress made by hand from deadstock fabrics, a safari dress and a minidress with a plunging cleavage and puffy sleeves. The collection will also feature her spin on the marinière and the trench, or “French coat.” She’ll also present a line of “old school” suits in different cuts.
Bags — a key focus of the collection — range from a yellow minaudière and hand-woven basket bag to a tasseled bag, à la Jane Fonda in “Klute.”
Senyk tapped into her colorist instincts for the unique mix-and-match palette. From rust and a Seventies buttercup, to eggshell and denim blue, each is designed to flatter a range of skin tones, she said, adding they’re sometimes “borderline bad taste.”
The collection will mix more affordable pieces with higher-priced, one-off items, with two collections planned per year. Prices range from 350 euros for a poplin shirt to around 1,800 euros for a Lurex dress.
“It’s this idea of a free-spirited French girl, like a Françoise Sagan. She’s not conventional, she likes to sunbathe, even though she knows it’s bad for her. She dances, drinks wine, eats and talks too loud,” the designer continued.
Born in France to Polish parents and raised between Algeria and France, Senyk arrived in Paris in her late teens, though she considers there are “no true Parisians.” Instead, French style, for her, is more about a cultural mix. “All of my friends are from Italy, Germany,” she said.
The decision to seek partners for the project was prompted by advice from Chloé chief executive officer Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye. (Senyk, who prior to launching Wanda Nylon worked for brands including J.W. Anderson and The Row, received two years of mentoring from the executive as part of her ANDAM prize.)
“He taught me to delegate, to let someone else take on the sales and production,” the designer said. “And to focus on what I’m good at.”