Ten years in, Parisian cool-girl brand Sézane is setting its sights on further expansion in the U.S.
The sustainability-focused fashion brand, which launched in 2013, came out of founder Morgane Sézalory’s idea to sell vintage clothing items from Paris via her website site, Les Composantes. As demand for the unique items grew, she started designing pieces with a vintage edge, which evolved into Sézane. In 2015, U.S. investment fund Summit Partners bought a minority stake in the company of around 20%. Three years later, another 20% was bought by private equity giant General Atlantic, which now reportedly owns 45% of the company. Most recently, in September 2022, Téthys Invest bought a small stake in the company.
Part of Sézane’s allure is its close relationships with its Europe-based factories, which account for over two-thirds of the brand’s production. Because of this, Sézane has been able to offer premium products at a lower price point than its competitors, according to the company. And with shoes being one of the brand’s best-selling categories, high-quality materials and craftsmanship are top priorities.
Sézane was one of the first fashion brands to receive B Corp certification, in 2021. By 2022, Sézane reduced its total carbon footprint by 22%. It also has an extensive in-house recycling program, with over 13,000 pieces recycled so far. Most importantly, Sézane focuses on small-production batches, which has worked to eliminate excess stock.
The brand has long focused on collaborations to raise awareness and acquire new customers. In February, Sézane launched a second collaboration with New York-based fashion brand Sea that sold out in 24 hours.
And it’s recently focused on pop-ups. In April 2022. Sézane rented a space in Los Angeles at the Platform, a community shopping center, where it received over 10,000 unique customers in the five months it was opened. It then moved the pop-up to San Francisco in September 2022, before deciding in December to make the space a permanent store. Sézane has also focused on European pop-up stores through its “Amour” tour that pays homage to each city: Amsterdam, Brussels, Barcelona and Madrid.
Below, Sézalory talks about why she still believes in the DTC model, what she’s learned from Sézane’s first pop-ups in the U.S. and what the company has planned, in terms of U.S. expansion.
How has DTC changed during the last 10 years, and what is working for your brand’s strategy and marketing today?
“I’ve always seen DTC as the only way for Sézane to be. It’s the easiest way to connect with our customer and continue to nurture the relationship as the brand grows. When I first started [by selling clothes] on eBay, I had a weekly rendezvous with a small community that grew larger and larger each month, and helped to create lifelong friends of Sézane. My relationship with the customer has always been incredibly organic even as the brand grows.
I see our Instagram account as a platform to display our newest collections and products, but I also feel it’s our duty to spread important messages, do good and create change, such as our work with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
In regards to brand growth, we have implemented a strategy of pop-up retail locations in key cities globally including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Amsterdam and Barcelona. They’ve been successful in reaching new audiences and have accelerated growth and conversion for the brand. Each space is thoughtfully designed through our lens, creating a window into the Sézane aesthetic from décor to product and environment to make it feel like home.”
What results did you see from the pop-up in L.A. and San Francisco?
“Our San Francisco pop-up in the Pacific Heights neighborhood was received so well by the local community that we decided to transform it into a permanent retail location, where our customers will be able to discover our new pieces collection after collection. Even after a few weeks of opening, people were still queuing in front of our store and kept coming back to see the new styles and colors of the season.
It was exactly the same in L.A. when we opened our summer pop-up at Platform in April 2022. The pop-up was a major success for us, with more than 1,000 customers coming to see the store on opening weekend. A couple of years ago, we had our first L.A. pop-up, at the Grove, which was so successful that we ended up keeping it a bit longer. Our customers were excited when we announced we were coming back. I’m now investing in finding the best location for our next pop-up openings. We have our eyes set on a couple of cities in Europe and the U.S. that we’d love to open for our 10-year anniversary in 2023.”
Why do you think the U.S. is a good market for your brand?
“The U.S. is an exciting market for any brand. Its vastness is both an opportunity and a challenge. We have honed in on key cities and opened our pop-up locations to meet with our local customers. We are always trying to think of our customers first by providing quality products that will last a lifetime and by listening to their needs.
We know the U.S. is a huge market for us as we have a massive customer base there. It is our second-largest market behind France. Our strategy doesn’t really differ from other markets; we always work with our coup de coeur. When I first opened a store in Paris, it was because I fell in love with the location as I walked by every day. I always trust my gut feeling when it comes to an opening. We’re targeting cities that we think are a match for Sézane, and when we find the perfect spot, we try to create a home in the city.”