LONDON — With one million followers on Instagram and a distinctly Parisian look — which often includes a messy bob, red lipstick and slip dresses galore — Jeanne Damas is a powerful force on social media.
Outside her work as a model and influencer, Damas has big ambitions for her clothing label, Rouje, which started as an online, direct-to-consumer brand for the women following her on Instagram. It has evolved into a fully fledged lifestyle house, with a new cosmetics range — and a foray into retail — set for 2019.
Both the personal brand and clothing label have been built around the worldwide fascination with effortless Parisian chic, which Damas embodies. A glance over her Instagram shows myriad pictures of Parisian rooftops and of Damas cycling around Paris in high-waisted jeans and well-cut blazers, smoking at her local café or lounging by the pool in the South of France in a barely there slip dress and designer Simon Porte Jacquemus by her side.
She is perfectly aware of the cliché, and she is willing to play with it.
“It is a cliché but at the same time I am Parisian, I live in Paris so I don’t have a problem with it. I also know it is a marketing tool and I try to be careful with it. I have my life, I keep a distance from the virtual world of my Instagram,” said Damas.
“That was also why I wrote my book, to play with the cliché of everyone saying that I’m the ultimate Parisian or a young Jane Birkin. I wanted to say, yes I am Parisian and I love a cliché but you can also get a taste of my real life and the real me. Her book, “In Paris,” which came out last year, shares an intimate view of life in the City of Light.
The Rouje collection also has Paris at its heart with timeless, elegant pieces at contemporary price points, such as androgynous check blazers, body-hugging knits and wrap skirts in playful cherry or floral prints.
Prices range from 90 euros to 290 euros.
“I know that my followers are young, so it was important for me to be accessible. That is a part of the success, too, because if it were too expensive, people wouldn’t be so willing to buy it on the Internet,” said Damas, adding that she was pleasantly surprised by how quickly likes were turning into sales. “At the beginning we were unsure about our production quantities, because I had a big following but it could all just have been likes. That’s why at the beginning Rouje was always sold out, because we underestimated (the click-through rate).”
Rouje started as a social media brand: It was ranked among the top 10 Instagram brands in Lyst’s 2018 Year in Fashion report, and Instagram remains an integral part of the journey, according to Damas. Yet her ultimate goal is to turn it into a fashion house that encompasses every aspect of her lifestyle.
The demand appears to be there: “Customers have been asking me for makeup, travel, interiors, clothes, everything. I don’t want to stop at clothes. I want to develop Rouje beyond an Instagram brand into a fashion house. For me, it’s a lifestyle. I might even open a restaurant one day — it’s all part of the same story,” said Damas.
“It is a real brand, with a strong team behind it, not just people looking to jump on a few trends. It’s women designing for other women; that’s a big part of our success.”
Damas is part of a new wave of female influencers, stylists, graphic designers and marketeers who have gone on to launch their own brands, despite not having traditional design training, and have managed to quickly resonate with consumers globally for their sweet-spot pricing and problem-solving approach to design.
This week Damas launched a new line of lipsticks and has been playing on her signature red pout.
There are four shades including a classic red, a nude, an autumnal brown and a light pink. Damas worked to achieve a “matte yet creamy, soft touch” while the gold packaging is meant to channel a vintage, Seventies feel.
As she aims to create the “ultimate Parisian kit,” Damas said she plans to release a new shade every month, from April onward and is also looking to expand to new cosmetics categories.
Everything will be developed in-house in order to keep the personality of the brand intact: “Rouje is about me and my life. It’s very individual and the story behind it is strong and true. That’s why it’s important for us to create things on our own, we would only maybe partner with someone for a special project.”
Retail is also in the works, as Damas looks to give the brand a new lease on life beyond its e-commerce platform. She is planning to host pop-ups in L.A. and Tokyo next April and is also in the middle of scouting a location in Paris for her first permanent boutique.