On my most recent visit to New York, I had the chance and pleasure to sit down and meet with powerhouse designer Jennifer Zuccarini, the definition of feminine edge at its best. Having a stellar resume, the former Victoria Secret Director of Design and Co-Founder of the luxury and lifestyle brand Kiki de Montparnasse recently launched her very own line of lingerie and ready to wear pieces called Fleur Du Mal, which is already creating major buzz in New York and abroad. I talked to Jennifer about her inspirations, design, the challenges of online retail, and her advice for young professionals looking to start their own brand.
How was the idea of Fleur Du Mal born?
It was something I always wanted to do on my own, and have it feel like a true fashion brand. There are also things that I really want to differentiate about Fleur in comparison to Kiki, that’s why there is more focus on the fashion aspect of it and less about intimacy. I was naturally led down this path and it was the right thing for me.
What do you think is a good way to describe your brand image and values?
I think our brand image is really about being chic, provocative and having a little bit of an edge too. It’s really inspired by dressing up and undressing, being very feminine, but always having a little hint of rebelliousness.
How would you recommend a woman that wants to get into Fleur Du Mal wear the pieces?
It’s a pretty full collection so the ready to wear pieces really highlight the lingerie. When you are wearing a sheer chiffon blouse or a dress and you see a little something underneath, you are able to show off those amazing undergarments that you are wearing.
Did you start with just lingerie in the beginning or was it always ready to wear paired with lingerie?
It was important for me to launch both sides with Fleur because I love the idea of lingerie that inspires clothing. We share a lot of the same fabrics between the two, whether it’s chiffon, lace, silk; I like that mixture.
When you first launched the brand, you did it with a pop-up event in New York…
It was a five-day pop-up experience; every day we did something a little bit different and it was a journey through the senses. We had amazing chefs from Norway do a tasting dinner that was inspired by the senses and a French mixologist create a drink that was influenced by our brand that had a black orchid frozen in ice. We also had a DJ from Paris named Ines Melia and a band from Versailles perform. Both have never played in New York before, so it was quite special. Fleur is a brand but it’s also the whole experience surrounding it, whether its music, art or food…it’s a total sensory experience.
Are there any designers that inspire you?
There have been so many! Growing up I always loved Yves Saint Laurent, I just found him so brilliant. Stella McCartney was a big inspiration when she first started and Alexander McQueen as well.
Do you find it a bit tricky to be very online-based?
I think it’s a growing experience because I feel that the future of retail is really online, that’s how people are shopping. I love that idea of creating an amazing online experience and thinking about it as a flagship store. I think the challenge is that it’s a completely different way of thinking about how to drive traffic to your site, versus driving traffic to your store.
How in touch are you with social media?
We actually launched social before we even launched the website to show people the behind the scenes and what was coming. We posted multiple times a day on outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a little on Pintrest, which we are getting more into now. Social media is often the number one traffic driver to our site and we stay on top of it. It’s something that would be hard to avoid for any brand as it becomes an integral part of our culture.
What about retail spaces and locations? Is that in the cards for Fleur Du Mal?
The whole pop-up concept is very important for us and it’s something that we are working on doing. The plan is a series of pop-ups in different cities with the focus for now being New York, Tokyo, Paris, London and Hong Kong. For example, Hong Kong just launched its own version of Art Basel, so doing something in conjunction with that is definitely an option. We are really going where our customers are.
What about celebrity endorsements or collaborations?
We are speaking to two different musicians that are potentially collaborating with us; I just can’t disclose the details as of yet! We love to work with artists that have a certain aesthetic that pairs with the vision behind Fleur.
Is there a notable celebrity that recently purchased Fleur?
Yes, actually. A stylist that works with Angelina Jolie recently picked up a few pieces for her and she ended up keeping quite a few of them! Emma Watson has some of our product for her press tour as well, and Solange Knowles does too.
If you weren’t in lingerie, what do you think you would be doing?
I love designing. I’m working on a bed collaboration right now and I love the idea of working on leather accessories, jewelry, home décor. I think I’m truly doing what I was meant to.
What do you think is in store in the near future for Fleur?
We are working on doing a pop-up store in New York for three months in the very near future, as well as a Bastille Day pop-up in New York for July possibly. We are also working on potentially collaborating with Milk Studios for Fashion Week, which is not confirmed yet, but it would be a huge step for us. Another addition to Fleur is our bridal collection. We have so many projects and they are all really exciting!
Any words of advice for young professionals that want to start their own brand?
You have to be really brave. Once you make that decision to start, you have to be all in and it’s not easy. It takes a lot of discipline, endurance and bravery. You have to go out there and try to kill it every day! It’s also important to have mentors and advisors. I have a network of people that I can go to, talk to about things… When you have people that invest in you financially, or because they believe in you, it really changes everything.