New Type #25: Mémère – Sarah LeBlanc Interview

July 26, 2017 10:00 AM

Upon arriving to the Mémère studio, it felt like stepping from the bustle of New York City into a vintage Chanel coin purse. The main entry displayed the simple typeface of the logo across a white wall, and over it a projector played "La Dolce Vita" softly in the background. A chic kind of European nostalgia decorated the various corners of the space, and it was accented with various shades of pale fabric swatches and half-empty spools of thread. Sarah LeBlanc, the founder and designer of the brand, greeted me with a tray of homemade muffins and coffee. And as we sat down in a pair of cozy fur-lined armchairs to discuss the line, I began to connect the delicate dots of the story behind the first Mémère collection. 

 

---------------SARAH LEBLANC INTERVIEW---------------

 

Audrey from TWELV: Congratulations on your new line! This must be a really exciting time for you. I’d love to get to know the brand a little more in depth. Let’s start with the name—Memere. What does that mean?

Sarah LeBlanc: It’s French-Canadian and it means “grandmother.” It’s what I call my grandmother, and she’s a sewer. She taught me how to sew when I was younger. She inspired the line, and I still often call her for sewing and design tips. 

  

A: That’s amazing. So the name has a lot of significance for you. Are there any other sources you draw inspiration from? 

SL: I think I’ve been inspired a lot by where I’m from in New England. It’s a very picturesque environment. I grew up swimming in the river and in a house built in the 1700s on the marsh. I would go and collect antiques with my mom on the weekends, and I just have a really romantic outlook on life in general. So, that really inspired me to look more into the Romanticism movement and to learn more about it. I try to do as much research as I can about the history behind romanticism and use that in my design. 

  

A: So you grew up in kind of this idyllic romantic setting. What initially led you into the field of design?

SL: I think my grandmother and my mom. And just collecting vintage clothing and fabric and cutting it up, making new things. That really influenced it. I’ve always been really artistic, you know, taking art lessons while I was growing up, and I’ve always loved clothes. It was just always something I’ve really wanted to do.

 

A: So you site something called “Wabi Sabi” as a major element of your Fall/Winter 2017 collection. Can you tell me a little more about Wabi Sabi and how it plays a role in your designs?

SL: Wabi Sabi is the Japanese concept of imperfection in beauty, and it’s basically the idea of valuing the beauty of imperfection. In Japanese culture, they consider these “flaws” to be beautiful themselves. For example, a bowl with a single crack in it. Or a tree with decaying bark. The imperfections are what make them interesting. So for our show, I requested the roses to all be a week old so they had this sort of weathered appeal. It’s all about finding flaws and turning them into things that are beautiful.  

 

A: Wow, that’s a really powerful influence. 

SL: It is. I actually first heard of it through Rei Kawakubo. She uses it in a lot of her work at Comme des Garçons and she’s also a major influence on the line. 

  

A: So, there’s a lot of Japanese influence as well as more traditional elements of European design.  

SL: Yes, the Japanese and the French. I’ve noticed how they sort of collide. They have a lot of complementary style elements. 

  

A: You wouldn’t assume that those cultures would have so much in common. And for the collection you have all neutral tones. Is there a story behind this color pallet?

SL:  I’m just naturally drawn to neutrals. I don’t really like bright colors. I was adamant on the nude color. I was really inspired by Chanel— specifically tea dresses that she made in the 1930s. She started by making frocks in these nude shades and they really influenced me. And the black in the collection is from Rei Kawakubo. In the ‘80s, her group called themselves “the crows” and wore all black. So, that was where the nude and black came in. 

  

A: Okay, so you’ve cited Chanel and Rei Kawakubo a lot in your work. Would you say they are your biggest fashion icons?

SL: Definitely Chanel. And I love Rei Kawakubo—I think she’s revolutionary. I think she’s such an artist. And that’s what I consider myself to be. I don’t really think of myself as a fashion designer, so much as an artist. Stevie Nicks is also my ultimate style icon. The brand itself is a combination of dark and a classic kind of witchy. 

 

A: With such a fusion of influence, you must have a really unique design process. What’s your favorite part of it? 

SL: I love the research. And I love gathering fabrics. I like going to the botanical gardens and sketching. I really like the whole conception stage and coming up with ideas. And of course, the final moments when you get to see your ideas come to life. The show. Those five or ten minutes and then starting all over again. I love that cycle. I live for that.

  

A: And then what would you say is the hardest part of the process?

SL: I think being an entrepreneur. You know, this market is very oversaturated and it’s challenging, so you really have to have a passion for it.  You have to just keep going and not give up. Dust yourself off and believe you can make it. 

  

A: What kind of woman is a Mémère woman?

SL: She’s very classy. I always think of what my grandmother tells me. She gives me little tips. Like when you go out, just show a little bit. Show one thing. Don’t show a leg and décolletage. The Mémère woman is classy and educated and has morals. I just think of the kind of woman my grandmother is. She is such a strong woman. She had these men who fell in love with her and she was adored. My muse is Linda Rodin. Someone sophisticated, but young at heart. Just someone with unique spirit. And chic. 

 

A: If you had to describe the collection in one word what would it be?

SL: Raw. It was my first collection. It was every idea I had in my mind of what is beautiful. I took a lot of photos and traveled to Europe for inspiration, really just putting myself and my collection out there for the first time. Whereas in my next collection that I’m working on now, everything is more streamlined and closer to what I intended the business plan to be.

 

A: Do you have any upcoming projects you’re excited about? 

SL: I think right now it’s my new collection. I’m really excited to be working on it. And then my e-commerce site is about to launch so that’s a really big thing too. I’m really happy with where everything is headed– just really excited for the future!

 

 

INTERVIEWED BY AUDREY ROSE ARNOLD

EDITED BY HOLLIS DE LANEY

 

PHOTO CREDIT: SEVENTH HOUSE PR

 

related posts

BEHIND THE SCENES #4: Nicola Formichetti

TWELV's Behind the Scenes takes a step back and visits the masterminds behind the camera.

September 06, 2016 2:00 PM  |  People

IKEMEN #32: TERRY DOE

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

Name: TERRY DOE

August 25, 2016 1:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #16: LINDER - SAM LINDER AND KIRK MILLAR INTERVIEW

“Introducing a new generation of quick and fresh minded designers”

August 05, 2016 12:00 PM  |  People

IKEMEN #31: CORNELIUS LOY

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

August 01, 2016 3:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #15: JULIANNA BASS - JULIANNA BASS INTERVIEW

July 26, 2016 3:00 PM  |  People

Takarazuka CHICAGO Cast Members Interview

“All Japanese, All Women, All that Jazz! We interviewed three cast members of Takarazuka CHICAGO who preformed in the Lincoln Center Festival in 2016.

July 22, 2016 3:00 PM  |  People

Sean O’Pry EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW "Good Ol’ Georgia Boy”

SEAN O’PRY EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

"GOOD OL’ GEORGIA BOY”

July 15, 2016 2:00 PM  |  People

R.I.P. Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, Iconic Street Style Photographer, Passes away at 87 

 

June 29, 2016 4:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #14: Alida Boer - Alida Boer Interview

TWELV Magazine sat down with Alida Boer in NYC to get to know the designer and better understand the intricacies of her designs and company’s mission.

June 13, 2016 11:00 AM  |  People

NEW TYPE #13: CHENG - CHENG HUAI CHUANG INTERVIEW

"Cheng-Huai Chuang was introduced to fashion at a young age"

June 08, 2016 4:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #12: DROMe - MARIANNA ROSATI INTERVIEW

" I carry in my heart the values I've learned from my hometown - such as being true to myself and to my style"

 

 

May 24, 2016 4:00 PM  |  People

IKEMEN #30: JORGE URENA

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

May 20, 2016 10:00 AM  |  People

NEW TYPE #11: LODOVICO ZORDANAZZO INTERVIEW

TWELV Magazine sat down with Lodovico Zordanazzo during his NYC visit to discuss his new collection and unique perspective on shoe design. 

May 10, 2016 12:00 PM  |  People
BreeLayne / Designer and Actress

NEW TYPE #10: BREELAYNE - BREELAYNE INTERVIEW

April 27, 2016 11:00 AM  |  People

NEW TYPE #9: J.ELSTER - JENNIFER ELSTER Interview

TWELV Magazine recently visited filmmaker and designer, Jennifer Elster, at her studio, The Development.

March 06, 2016 8:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #8: MORGANE LE FAY - Liliana Casabal Interview

"Introducing an extremely talented designer"
January 23, 2016 3:00 PM  |  People
Photo by Noritaka Tatehana

Noritaka Tatehana Exclusive Interview

The talented young Japanese designer, Noritaka Tatehana, who collaborated with Iris Van Herpen to design Lady Gaga’s shoes.

November 03, 2015 10:00 AM  |  People
Photo Credit: Chris Schoonover

CHAOS CHAOS Interview

Formerly known as Smoosh, Asy and Chloe Saavedra of Chaos Chaos have always been a sister-sister duo.

October 12, 2015 10:00 AM  |  People

THE KNOCKS Takes Tokyo

Recently, electro-pop duo, The Knocks, visited Japan to perform in the ARC+TWELV party at ARC, a newly opened venue in Tokyo.

October 11, 2015 11:00 AM  |  People

CAVERNS Interview

TWELV had privilage of chatting with our friends from the band Caverns. The trio hail from NYC and are pretty much all over the music scene here!

July 26, 2015 11:00 AM  |  People

Michael Phillips Moskowitz, eBay Chief Curator & Ed. Director, Interview

TWELV Magazine had the pleasure of connecting with Michael Phillips Moskowitz, the Global Chief Curator & Editorial Director at eBay.

July 22, 2015 10:00 AM  |  People

NEW TYPE #7: EKAT - Katya INTERVIEW

"Introducing a new generation of designers" 

July 16, 2015 2:00 PM  |  People

Mai Mukaida Interview

Makeup Artist / CEO, Lalitpur.

Believes in the power of cosmetic

and lives with women in Nepal.

June 11, 2015 10:00 AM  |  People

M KOUGER INTERVIEW: Farmhouse

With the fabulous Chloe 81, the oysterrific Chloe 81 Blue Room and the recently opened Farmhouse Restaurant, M Kouger has established an essential trifecta of entertainment in NYC’...

May 19, 2015 1:30 PM  |  People

Pages

SITE BY: monocomplex©Marbles & Marbles International Inc. Drupal Development by: DivDiv, NYC
▲ back to top ▲