Username is the new fashion label of French R&B singer Dadju, who works a relaxed yet smart streetwear style suitable for different genders and body types.
“I would like the brand to represent becoming someone,” he said, noting the age-old desire, especially when you’re young, of being this or that star, and playing around with different identities.
“I can pull this off,” he said, ripping off a vertical patch marked with the label’s name off of his shirt, and attached with Velcro, showing how it could be exchanged with a similar patch in a different color scheme, worn by a colleague who sat across the room in a recording studio in the outskirts of Paris.
“I can be him from one minute to another,” he said, with a smile. Dadju grew up in a musical family — his father sang with the Congolese rumba star Papa Wemba, and several of his 13 siblings are rappers, including Maître Gims, who has topped the charts in France.
Growing up, music was a huge influence in Dadju’s Congolese family, but so was fashion.
“I remember, five years old, my mother put me in Versace boots — with a pair of jeans and a sweater,” he recalled.
“You see, Congolese are ‘sapologues,’” he said, referring to a Congolese movement of dressing snappy and reinventing fashion codes.
“Sometimes it’s exaggerated a bit, because you’ll see someone adopt a different manner when they’re dressed up — when someone’s wearing heels, you’ll hear them tapping,” added Dadju, breaking out into a harmonious laugh, a bit deeper than his soft spoken manner.
“I grew up steeped in this culture since I was young,” he said, stressing the importance for his mother of dressing up.
To introduce the label, the singer held a futuristic fashion event in the north of Paris, with an elaborate setup complete with two, huge fake suns and a trio of shipping containers. Spectators were invited to wander around the post-apocalypse landscape with virtual reality technology to discover the lineup of work shirts, sweatpants, hoodies and T-shirts. — Mimosa Spencer
She calls it her sixth child. Now that her five children are older — well, the youngest is just emerging from toddlerhood — Prune Goldschmidt is launching her namesake label. It plays with conservative French bourgeois codes, with extra-wide Peter Pan collars, ruffled cuffs, sashes and bows — framing the female figure while offering flashes of skin.
“It’s a story of love, above all,” said the designer, speaking at a showroom space in Paris. Images rolled by on the screen behind her of bored-looking, young French women lounging around in a mansion by the pool, painting, jumping on a bed or stretched out in a claw-footed bathtub, eating pasta — interrupted by the return of Goldschmidt, who flops down on a couch with giant stuffed cats, wiggling her bare feet at the camera.
“I’ve lived through things — I want to be there for women,” she said, tracing her background designing children’s clothing for Sonia Rykiel, and gaining recognition for jewelry designs before heading to Bordeaux, where she raised her children.
“I needed to exist, I needed recognition — it wasn’t a choice, it was practically a question of survival,” she said, speaking of the decision to launch her own label. Her creative side had followed her through motherhood.
She described her client: “She’s a bit childish, but she’s also an audacious woman — not afraid to say what she things and to wear what she likes. But always elegant.
“She’s also in love — you see this blazer, it was the idea of a woman who puts on her man’s blazer because she’s cold,” she added, pulling a jacket off the rack. It had buttons that were engraved with her family’s monogram. — Mimosa Spencer
This is a brave time to launch a new fashion brand, but that does not faze Laurie Arbellot and Marion Anais Forand. The two French designers, both in their mid-thirties, met and hit it off while working at Proenza Schouler in New York.
After five years thinking about it, they decided to set up their Minuit label just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Frustrated by what they describe as a lack of a high-fashion offering at a price point their age group can afford, they were driven to create their own.
With Arbellot, who trained at Studio Bercot, now living back in Paris and Forand, an ESMOD graduate, working from New York, they are setting out to create a wardrobe they would want to wear themselves, focusing on fit, high-end fabrics and a combination of tailoring and sensuality, citing Yves Saint Laurent’s approach to tailoring for women and the “pure clothes” of Nineties-era Prada and Jil Sander among their inspirations.
During their eight years at Proenza Schouler — Forand on the accessories design team and Arbellot working on ready-to-wear — the duo’s shared French roots brought them together and became the building block for their own label. “We were almost the only two French girls in the company,” said Arbellot in a video call. “We had that French approach that they didn’t have.”
Describing their shared esthetic and inspirations as they have built their proposition, they have only found greater resonances. “The way we share ideas and sketches is almost telepathic,” said Forand.
The collection offers feminine twists on tailored pieces like high-waisted pants, cropped tuxedo jackets with ruched details, ultra-cropped shirts and a lightweight trenchcoat in a shimmering gray fabric. These are contrasted with pieces like bralets and evening dresses in a more sensual register that are sharply shaped yet reveal the skin. A backless strappy top in gray silk crêpe, an organza dress and a bell-sleeved off-the-shoulder top in simple poplin soften up the silhouette here and there.
Prices for the collection range from 290 euros to 2,190 euros at retail. — Alex Wynne