Ex-Sonia Rykiel artistic director Julie de Libran, who cut her teeth at Versace and climbed fashion’s ladder via lengthy tenures at Prada and Louis Vuitton, has gone her own way. Her concise edit of exquisite dresses crafted from limited archive fabrics – which she debuted during Paris Couture Fashion Week at her home on the Left Bank – has now landed on Matchesfashion.com.
It was a Vogue editor who first planted the seed of contacting Tom and Ruth Chapman in de Libran’s mind. “I arrived at 5 Carlos Place [the Matchesfashion.com headquarters] with my trunk of dresses and it felt like old times,” de Libran recalls of hot-footing over on the Eurostar to secure an e-tail partnership. “The team loved the sustainable yet luxurious undertones of the collection.” Each dress is numbered owing to the finite amount of deadstock silk from de Libran’s supplier in Lake Como and embroidery from Switzerland – a perk of the relationships she built as fashion’s behind-the-scenes star player. “Having the opportunity to give life to couture fabrics that would otherwise go to waste has been special for me,” she adds.
De Libran began by creating dresses, quite simply, because she felt that women enjoy having one piece they can throw on and feel put-together. “You can style it up or down,” she says, with the kind of nonchalant flair that only Parisians can get away with. “It’s a personal thing, but I love a bit of high-low.” Strong women, too, inspired the designs, from her mother living the American dream in her seventies, to the professionals in de Libran’s inner circle working in architecture and design. “I think that women are the most beautiful when they’re realising their passions,” she states. And so, the flowing silk confections in both de Libran’s ready-to-wear and made-to-measure offerings are called the likes of Sofia, Charly, Brigitte, Gaia and Gilda in celebration of powerful females – some real, some fictional.
“I spend hours – no nights! – imagining women,” de Libran smiles. “As soon as I have fabric in front of me, I imagine someone in a dress.” She chose to offer bespoke pieces (the Matchesfashion.com buy comprises seven click-to-buy dresses and seven dresses that are fitted via private appointments), because the thrill of creating unique, extraordinary pieces still sends her heart aflutter. “I’ve done a lot of celebrity dressing,” de Libran says in a knowing manner that suggests there are plenty of tales to tell on this topic. “I love building a relationship with a client and working towards a specific moment.” Her own friends, however, pester her for options. Accordingly, each dress in the mainline edit comes in a tunic, a mini, and a maxi dress. For a creative who claims to have limited business acumen, de Libran is ticking a lot of boxes.
“I stayed at the big houses for so long because I wanted to learn the best savoir-faire from the very best ateliers,” she says. “After almost 30 years in the industry, I established the way I want to do it.” Next on the agenda is America. De Libran will pack up her silks again and travel to trunk shows, so she can learn more about her customers and build closer relationships. “We live in such a fast-paced world with so much product, I want to take things slowly,” she shares. “A dress, for me, is like a piece of music. It represents a memory, a moment. I hope that someone who wears one of my dresses will pass these memories on to the next generation.” Hand-me-downs never looked so chic.