I love fashion but not enough to feel that I must have my say or share my point of view on the industry … It is actually some other professionals’ real job and they are so good at doing it that I wouldn’t dare to fantasize a share of voice. Hence the fact that I scarcely talk about fashion and accessories on my blog. Same on the other magazines x projects I am contributing to. Nonetheless it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a clear vision of the subject … But unless some encounters really thrills me or I am personnaly introduced to some passionate people and one of a kind designer, entrepreneur, … whose energy, commitment, motivates me to the point of having the gut to share about her/his experience. Exactly what happened with how and when I met with the talented accessory designer Hélène Nepomiatzi thanks to our mutual friend Julien.
Business Madame : Hélène, what path did you take prior to launching your eponymous brand a year ago ? Why did you make this choice ?
Hélène Nepomiatzi : Right after I graduated from Studio Berçot (Paris), I started to create my own handbags designs. I was then 21 and I named my brand 31 Février. Of course a date that cannot be. Something that stood for an extraordinary day, more outstanding than fairy tale though. At the same period I had the opportunity to introduce my design to Karl Lagerfeld whom loved it and offered me to work on his accessory line. This collaboration enabled me to receive other commissions with Thierry Mugler, Paco Rabanne, Givenchy, Celine by Michael Kors, Balmain, Swarovski amongst others. I have always felt that telling stories was what I was good at ! I guess it is like making a movie except that my tools are functional design and objects of the daily life … At some point having my own accessory label became mandatory as I needed to further express my creative direction and my brand territory. Hence choosing to use my own name : Hélène Nepomiatzi. It is also a tribute to my family and my grand father – even though I never knew him personally – whom was a silversmith skilled for crafting handbags expensive closures.
BM : Accessories are worldwidely on high demand and sales are skyrocketing as outstanding volumes bring more choice to customers. As an emerging label how do you stand out of the crowd ? From a client and professional buyer standview … And beyond brand positionning what is your story based on ?
HN : Since I started designing accessories, innovation has always been at the heart of my approach through my choice of fabrics and posing a singular look on accessory design. I am particularly keen on bringing together crossed expertises in the making of a bag. I am very impressed by craftmen and the various know-how they hold – it raises my unlimited curiosity. Through tremendous research and developement I can make my dreams come true instead of remaining mere fantaisies. It may sometimes require working with a dental prosthetist, a cabinet-maker or a metal turner ! Invention thrills me, something to dream of ! It is rooted deep in my bones !
BM : Tell us about what inspires you ? Any artists, designers or films that comes to mind ?
HN : My childhood is always the starting point. Daily affairs too after I’ve filtered it carefully curating images from movies, chosen words … It forms a melting pot, which is mine. The one I use to tell a new story of my own imagination. For instance, the GRISBI piece is an implied reference to « Touchez pas au Grisbi » by French movie director Jacques Becker. It is shaped like my father’s old fashioned coin purse, as I remember it from my childhood. I twisted it from its original function transforming it into a handbag. I have added an actual size coin purse on its face. Playing with the rules of etiquette from a UX opinion provokes surprise and I like that.
BM : Looking back at your first steps as a designer and the challenges you faced then what is your look on this period ?
HN : My beginnings were guided by instinct plus intuitions better than a forecasted career path. Only pure creation where marketing strategy had no chapter. Reinventing my vision as much as possible is one of the challenge I have always imposed to myself. There is no other way, acting like that is a must ! Again thinking back to my early years I acknowledge that I showed huge passion and determination. It is only recently that it hit me !
BM : Where do you stand now ? Along with your team what do you feel most proud of ?
HN : A year and a half after I have launched my brand, Hélène Nepomiatzi, I am quite satisfied with how the media responded ! Not to mention that we do not pretend to have the required communication and PR budget ! Fashion editors were very spontaneous and mentioned us because they loved my design ! This is much appreciated ! Regarding our production I am very much backed up by my manufacturers ! Our business collaboration is based on mutual trust and bespoke privileged relationship. Looking forward to the future, it is a vital asset. I must strive to grant them – the artisans – larger orders but as for now they can still accompany my sales growth sustainably. This is critical. Distribution is another key point. We sure must increase our network but we have not yet identified the right partners. Investments too are needed now and I am really focused on this part of the business and how to address it engineering a relevant process.
BM : Regarding your team, upon which criteria did you choose people you are working with ? How determinant were encounters for you ? Where are your accessories made and why does it matter ?
‘My beginnings were guided by instinct plus intuitions better than a forecasted career path. Only pure creation where marketing strategy had no chapter. Reinventing my vision as much as possible is one of the challenge I have always imposed to myself.’ says Hélène Nepomiatzi.
HN : I have surrounded me with talented craft men and apprentices : men and women whose expert craftmanship I admire. Encounters proved to be determinant as I value the human factor to the highest level. All the workshops in which our pieces are manufactured are located in France as a matter of fact. Both because it happens to be closer hence more efficient and sustainable and above all because they bring their excellency and high level of ‘savoir-faire’.
BM : What is next ?
HN : I wish I can open a shop in Paris to leverage brand awareness. A place where visitors can discover the brand but also peer behind the scenes of creation …