Just three collections from launch and Skiim can count Browns London, Aïshti Lebanon, and Le Bon Marché Paris as luxury retail partners. The early adoption of the brand can be credited to designer Caroline Sciamma-Massenet finding a market niche; the womenswear collection is made entirely of ethically sourced suede and leather. It also helps that the former fashion director of Vogue and CR Fashion Book has the ability to create industry trends that the market innately follows. Her 'pied piper' effect trickles down to consumers from Skiim's network of influencers that includes everyone from celebrities Alexa Chung and Alicia Vikander to influencers Leaf Greener and Violette. Sciamma-Massenet releases two collections yearly as well as one core collection which smartly comprises of ‘Les Classiques.’ Having wholesale open all-year intuitively enables retailers to double their performing sales by placing on demand.
KL: This is now your third collection and you have garnered a large amount of press. I recently saw Madonna and Alexa Chung wearing Skiim.
CS-M: Kylie Minogue, Julia Restoin-Roitfeld and Jourdan Dunn. It's true we have many friends who happen to be influencers. We also have a good PR Agency [Purple] and they’re doing a great job. It also demonstrates our strengths; Skiim is a niche product and is responsibly sourced.
KL: You also have a high profile yourself and the Skiim brand benefits from this. Having worked as Fashion Director of CR Fashion Book and with Vogue and you’re a stylist in your own right. How do you think that this has helped you?
CS-M: I was and am still a stylist. I started at French Vogue. When Carine left the company I then became Editor-at-large at CR Fashion Book. I have a trained eye where products are important to me, as is my style as well. It is easy for me to create these pieces because it is how I dress. I made it and I love it. I am really passionate about it.
KL: When you start to put together a collection do you start with a mood board?
CS-M: I basically do as I would with a photo shoot. I create a mood board with all of my favourite images, the theme and colour palette. I am very inspired by French, English or American actresses from the 60s and 70s. They’re natural beauties, have strong personalities and are very charismatic, so I try to create that essence in the collection. I mostly reference Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot in great movies, where they played free spirits. I add a little bit of craziness and lots of leopard, which I love. I like to combine new trends with the past and what is natural.
KL: The fabrications you use are extremely supple, I am sure they were difficult to source from all parts of the world.
CS-M: It is a big research project for me. I have to travel all over Italy and France to source the leather. Tactile quality comes first and the leather must retain its shape. It is important to have a silky texture to the shirts because I hate to see shirts sit heavily on the body. I always try to check and test the leather first, it must be very fine, thin and luxurious. I enjoy the look of beauty and softness, so it has to be perfect.
KL: I guess the question on a lot of buyers lips will be how do you source the leather in terms of ethical procurement?
CS-M: It mostly comes from the meat industry so I have to ensure its origin because that is very important to me. It is a by-product and it must be chrome free by way of vegetable tanning so that there are no chemicals. All of the dyes used are natural so it is good for the world actually.
KL: You have had such a positive response globally from retailers. You are working with some great ones from Aïshti to Le Bon Marché. How do you feel the market has reacted?
CS-M: I really feel proud because it is quite hard when you start a fashion company. Starting the first season, it was an honour to sell to these prestigious stores from the beginning and they’ve been very supportive to me. I started from scratch, even though I know fashion, I’ve never worked for Balmain or Balenciaga as a Creative Director. They really understood the collection and they continue to come and buy it because they see the progression and the consistency is there. And I try to do my best.
KL: I understand that you’ve made the prices of the leather quite competitive.
CS-M: It is actually. I do a wholesale markup of two instead of three because my type of leather is very expensive. So I’m trying to be more affordable than other brands. It is luxury, but it is still affordable. Buyers really like that because they can see the difference.
KL: If you could visually merchandise this collection for a retailer in store, how would you see the collection sitting?
CS-M: I would love to collaborate with artists. I’m very arty, my vision is all about luxury shapes, structure and bags. I love accessories so I think it makes sense to have a shoes and a bags line. I also appreciate decoration so pillows, sofas and paintings would follow. I would create a destination where SKIIM is the main attraction. It’s all about destination nowadays.
KL: Speaking of lifestyle, it seems your AW'18 collection has an equestrian background?
CS-M: I was raised with horses, my uncle was a jockey-trainer and I was doing it all my life until I became a model. I just wanted to create the colour palette of grass, mustard, burgundy, rust and nature. My collection is intuitively called ‘Cross Country’. The metallic elements are a spray on bronze leather that was laser cut. There are items that feel like silk but are actually leather because of the leather shave. It’s so comfortable to have supple leather beside the skin because it feels light. It’s all very easy.