Nestled behind racks flowing with fur in bright hues of pink, lavender, and fire engine red, hid the brilliant minds behind one of fashion’s up and coming faux fur brands APPARIS. Co-founders Amélie Brick and Lauren Nouchi welcomed us into their cozy Chelsea studio for a sneak peak into their lives and the journey they’ve gone through so far into launching their first official fall/winter collection.
Tell us a little about APPARIS.
Lauren: APPARIS is an exclusive faux fur brand based in New York City. We have a team of designers with me in Paris where we find our inspiration, where we design our collection, and then we have a second office in the heart of Chelsea, Manhattan, where we have the rest of the team. We started the business about 2 years ago, but this is our first official fall/winter collection of faux fur. In the past we also had sportswear, but we decided to focus on faux fur for this season. We’re a small team, of only women, so we consider ourselves a women’s company, and we like to say that we are our client. Our mission is definitely to bring the best faux fur coat for our clientele at a fair price.
What brought you two together?
Amélie: So, it was a bit like the universe wanted us to meet. We’re both from the same town in France, Marseille, but we didn’t know each other. We actually met about ten years ago in Boston, where Lauren was studying, and I lived at the time. We met through family friends who knew each other back home, and stayed in touch. Later on, we both worked at Louis Vuitton in different places, we were able to reconnect and we continued to stay in touch. About two years ago we met again in Paris, had a catch up dinner, lots of wine, and discussed quitting our jobs to start our own business which we actually ended up following through on! We ditched our corporate jobs, and launched APPARIS.
Where are you both from? How many countries have you lived in?
Lauren: So, briefly, both from Marseille, lived in Boston, Paris, soon New York, and I think Amélie is about the same.
Amélie: Yes, we’re both from Marseille, I’ve been here a bit longer, about 13 years, and our families are actually from North Africa. So that has a lot of impact on our culture.
Which country has made the biggest impact on you and why?
Lauren: I think all of the countries we’ve lived in have had an impact in different ways. I will say that France made an impact on who we are because of our families and their background. Both our families are from entrepreneurial backgrounds, they own their own clothing stores, which I think really helped us find passion, purpose, and a work-hard mentality; three things you need if you want to start a business from scratch. We would not be here if it wasn’t for our families.
France has really inspired us for APPARIS. In Paris, when I go down to grab a baguette or a glass of wine, I constantly find inspiration. Being the capital of the fashion world, you’ll never see someone walking down the street in sweat pants, women will be wearing chic coats just to run errands, and I love Paris for that. The fashion, the history, the architecture, Paris is pure magic.
Amélie: For me I think the US, especially New York City, has had the biggest impact. This is where I’ve lived and worked for many years and there’s this energy that makes you want to achieve things, to really do something exceptional with your life. I’m lucky to be surrounded by creative minds; my friends are designers, they’re poets, they all in the creative field, and that really brings me the energy to create.
How have the places you’ve lived influenced your brand and lifestyle?
Lauren: Going back to France, I think first, Marseille. The second largest city in France, it’s located on the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a very cosmopolitain city, very colorful because, again, we have the sea and we also have the Provence and the Libéron, so a lot of green as well. It’s a very bold town with bold people; a strong personality that inspires us with design when we decide to go with, for instance, an electric blue color. It reminds me of the Mediterranean verses other colors.
Then, still in France, I think Paris. Going back to fashion, during fashion week I just go and sit at a cafe and do people watching, I love that. I’m also very lucky to be around creative people in Paris as well. For instance, I have my best friend who’s a stylist in Paris, she’s worked with Vogue, with Elle, and I love how she’s very thoughtless-chic. She will wear one of our faux fur coats with sneakers or pumps, and I just love to see how true Parisian people dress. I think that’s also an inspiration, and it transpires in our designs.
Amélie: In New York it’s really about the energy again. There’s this trendy style that you find in New York that you can’t find anywhere else. People are edgy, there’s diversity, and we’re constantly inundated with visuals, with branding, with commercials; it’s a constant barrage of the senses.
Your faux fur pieces are gorgeous! What made you both decide APPARIS would focus on faux fur?
Lauren: So in the very beginning when I introduced APPARIS very briefly, we started as doing more than just faux fur, but we always had in mind that we wanted to find the right product and do it right. That’s why when we decided to do a pop up last winter in Williamsburg, Brooklyn we had clothing such as dresses. They were very cute designs, but we really put the emphasis on our faux fur line. What was really a key moment, was when we were like “we think APPARIS should only be faux fur”, was when we saw our clientele. People would come and try on all the coats. There would be groups of girlfriends coming in and trying all the colors, taking pictures, and posting them on social media, so we knew had something.
I think that was really the element that started it, but beyond that the real fur industry is literally dying. You have big house brands like Gucci, Versace, Stella McCartney for a while, that have decided to ban real fur. Even in cities like San Fransisco it’s illegal to sell real fur, so we think it’s also important that when you start a business you look to solve a need. It’s difficult to find fairly priced faux fur coats with amazing quality, and that’s what we wanted to bring to the table.
Amélie: When we both started APPARIS we both agreed that you don’t need to sacrifice animals to make fashion. That is something that we firmly believe. We also think that an amazing coat can transform an outfit. It’s the statement piece, especially if you’re looking at a New York woman. She’s typically wearing an all black outfit, but then if you put on amazing faux fur coat in bold blue or bright red thats it. You look amazing!
We often think of our faux fur as an accessory, something bold you want to wear that’s going to make you happy. You put it on and it makes you comfortable and secure as you get out in the world. It’s truly a statement piece.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration for your designs?
Lauren: Our biggest inspiration are our friends. In fact, all of our coat’s styles have women’s first names, such as my best friend I mentioned to you, Manon. In addition to that, we also get inspiration from the everyday woman. It’s important for us to create designs that people can wear everyday. We also love to draw inspiration from French and fashion icons, such as Brigitte Bardot and Carine Roitfeld because, for us, they’re really representative of bold, empowered women, and we think that’s very APPARIS. They were always so chic, sexy and feminine, and that’s exactly how we want our client to feel when they wear our coats.
Most of your collection features a bright, bold palette, what made you go that route?
Amélie: Again, we draw a lot of the inspiration from home in Marseille and it’s a very colorful city. You can picture it as going to an outdoor flea markets and seeing stacks of spices; browns, reds, yellows, and then next to it you see this bright blue of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s really about these bright happy colors, these are what makes us smile. When Lauren designs a big red coat it’s a happy coat, it’s a source of real happiness for us and for the people who are seeing the collection.
There is a long standing argument in the fashion world on whether faux fur or real fur is better for the environment, what are your thoughts?
Lauren: In our opinion neither are better for the environment. We continue to stand by the mindset of not needing to sacrifice an animal to make nice coats. That’s what we believe, and where we think the discussion should be.
What do you think about social media in relation to fashion? In your opinion how has it transformed the industry, and where is it going to take it in the future?
Lauren: We are in 2018 and social media is everything for a brand. That’s why now you literally have teams in companies that only manage an application, which if we had told this to our parents 20 years ago they would have laughed. So in our case, in a small start up fashion brand, I think social media has been an incredible tool. I think from the features alone, that they now offer like shopping directly from an instagram picture, helps promotes brand awareness.
That’s how we started. Our website wasn’t the best, but we would connect with our clients through instagram. We would receive DMs asking where they could get the pieces, and we would make sales directly through the app. So a few months ago, when we decided to go exclusively faux fur and expand our collection we actually had at the same time a buyer from a big department store [Bloomingdales] liking our pictures on our instagram and then placing an order. That for us was a big step and without social media, our following, and our community we would not have had that opportunity which is very important for us as a small business. Going into the future I think its going to take more and more space in the industry.
How do you see yourselves expanding the collection? What are your plans for future seasons?
Amélie: We keep getting lots of comments from clients, from friends, when are you doing a children’s collection? When are you doing a mens collection? When are you doing accessories? We get tons of comments and ideas, so at this point we’re looking into all the options. Seeing what is visible and what makes sense to us. Our mission is truly to become the number one faux fur brand out there. We want to be the best at what we do, which is faux fur, so that is our focus right now. We just launched faux fur handbags, and perhaps in the future we’ll do some *capsule collections that will bring additional lines of products.
How do you make the partnership work? Having a co-founder is wonderful and very helpful, but sometimes it can also be difficult, any advice?
Lauren: I think there’s always struggle when you decide to start a business, that’s a given. If you have a partner, a co-founder, of course it can be even more of a challenge, but when you choose your partner what’s important is that you compliment each other. Amélie and I are both passionate about fashion; we have the same purpose and the same work ethic which is very important to find a partner, but we also have very different skills and background. The fact that we’re so strong in what we both do, when you combine it together that’s what will make it easier. So that would be my recommendation: to choose the right partner, to be complimentary and to have the same work ethic.
Amélie: I think it’s about setting expectations from the get go. For instance, the way we work – Lauren is everything product related, so she will design, overlook production, merchandising, styling, and photography which is a lot. While I will do the rest: admin, sales, distribution, and so forth. We have our own respective fields where we lead and we communicate with each other about them, like this morning we were talking about our resort collection that Lauren is spearheading, but it’s always about having those areas of expertise and communicating.
So when it comes to disagreement how do you handle it?
Lauren: So, for instance, if we have a disagreement with product, at the end of the day I will have to make the decision, and it’s the same with Amélie. If we have a distribution deal with Japan, which we’re actually working on, and I’m not agreeing with what they offer, Amélie will find a solution, but at the end of the day it’s her field, so it’s her decision.
Amélie: But it doesn’t happen often. I can’t really think of any times where we truly disagreed on anything. I think we do have our opinions, but it’s also about respecting each other’s voices and being openminded, discussing our issues and then going from there. It’s a very delicate balance, but I think we’re stronger together than we would be alone.
Make sure to follow these amazing, globetrotting women as they continue to grow APPARIS into a house hold name for faux fur.
*A capsule collection is a smaller collection that is usually made with a specific retailer or specific target in mind.