Q&A: Françoise Jeanne de Villiers on her slow fashion start up Studio Çoise

by | May 22, 2021

Studio Çoise is a slow fashion label founded by Françoise Jeanne de Villiers in the Cape Winelands. Clothes are made by hand and with love. The home-based studio has a strong focus on quality design, using natural fabrics. It operates on a made-to-order basis intended to reduce industrial waste and dead stock.​ The swing tags are made of paper with herb seeds that you can plant and grow for your kitchen or to add a touch of greenery to your home.

We caught up with Françoise to find out more about her new brand:

Tell us briefly about Studio Çoise

Our vision is to offer the conscious consumer high-quality locally-made clothes that strive to be as sustainable as possible within the current South African industry. Our made-to-order business model allows clients to request changes to our studio styles, such as additional length on sleeves, a deeper crotch on the pants, etc. None of us are built the same, and being able to cater to the different body shapes of our clients, gives them greater satisfaction with the end product and service.

I contract a freelance seamstress and a pattern maker. They work on their own time and terms. I work directly with each of them, and keep the team as small as possible in order to maintain an intimate connection between management and employees. It is a collaboration with open communication channels.  We are more like a family than a factory. We produce a limited quantity of items, which go into production within a specific timeframe. Not only does this allow better quality control (as quality garments last longer), it also allows exclusivity and prevents the team from overworking.

We also make use of compostable courier sleeves, organic tissue paper and recycled paper for packaging and branding.

From where do you source your natural fibres?

I source from various suppliers in Cape Town. As a startup and while I test the market, I am not able to invest in fabrics that are specifically produced for my label, therefore I cannot trace the source of all components. I cannot say for certain that the cotton is locally grown. Hopefully one day when we are more established, I will be able to invest in organic fabrics that are locally produced.  For now, I use natural fibres such as cotton, linen, wool, etc and try to bring sustainability into our practice through other methods.

If you had all the choice in the world, what fabrics would you like to use?

Definitely Global Organic Textile Standard certified or recycled fabrics.

Do you manufacture in-house?

I contract a freelance seamstress and pattern-maker who work for me in their own time.

What inspires your timeless design?

I previously worked as a stylist in the advertising industry, and I was inspired by the effortless, high quality style of Scandinavian clients. I continue to look at independent European and Scandinavian brands for inspiration.

Tell us about the multi-functional cotton percale shirt?

An aspect of sustainability is versatility. If you can use a classic piece throughout the year, then it makes the item worth the investment. And this is exactly why I love this shirt so much! The button closure on the sleeve allows you to remove the lower part of the sleeve, which gives you that perfect boxy summer shirt. As soon as it gets cold, you can just pop the sleeves back on. We use a high-quality cotton percale and construction thread to ensure this item will last.

Who is your target market?

The conscious consumer. The person who wants to invest in high quality design, and who is conscious of the impact of their choices and buying behaviour. Most of my clients are women who are confident about their style and know exactly what they want.

What are the biggest challenges to a sustainable fashion industry in South Africa?

As a small business, our challenge is access to locally-produced sustainable fabrics at a low minimum quantity.

Which local sustainable brands do you relate to?

UNI FORM, for their timeless innovative design and aesthetics. Other brands I look up to are Good Good Good, Thebe Magugu, Lukhanyo Mdingi, VIVIERS, MMUSOMAXWELL, and Lara Klawikowski.

In what ways do reduce your impact on the planet?

It is the small things… using reusable shopping bags, recycling, catching that first bit of cold shower water to use in the garden, optimising my sourcing trips to Cape Town and my freelance seamstress/pattern maker. I also try to avoid buying clothing from international or fast fashion retailers, and rather support other local brands.

See Studio Çoise here and for more information about the PICHULIK jewellery featured see here.

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