Born into the cheap Longchamp fortune, Sofie Delafontaine is anything but an entitled heiress. On her first visit to India to launch their flagship store in Mumbai, the brand’s artistic director reveals exactly why we need more women making the big decisions.
ELLE: This is a brand you were literally born into. What was it like growing up?
Sophie Delafontaine: We’re a family of workaholics. Watching my parents and grandparents gave me a sense of their work ethic and patience early on. We trust each other because we have the same values and ambitions.
ELLE: Was it always understood that you would have to work your way up?
SD: My mother, both grandmothers, even my great-grandmother all worked at a time when it was uncommon for women from good families to do anything other than be housewives and take care of the family. For me, having a career came naturally. I have three kids and it’s important for them to have a mother who is self-confident and happy to achieve things.
ELLE: How has the way women approach dressing changed since you entered fashion?
SD: Twenty years ago, bags were functional. In Europe, women had a black bag for winter, and a navy blue or beige one for summer. Different countries had different tastes: German women liked big bags with long straps, Japanese women wanted tiny replica handbags. But today, I am not speaking to one nationality, but to the spirit of the woman: she is confident and multifaceted, and constantly multitasking. So, the product needs to follow her life.
ELLE: Tell us about the legendary style of the Parisian woman. What can the world learn from her approach to fashion?
SD: [Laughs] I am Parisian, but I don’t really think we are special. But if I compare us with women in the US or UK, I would say that we appreciate fashion in a more discreet way. In other countries, they will have a total look, a focus on brand logos. Maybe the effect of this discretion is that Parisian women seem naturally elegant, even though there is a lot of hard work behind it.
ELLE: It’s also that, like Indians, the French respect the process of ageing.
SD: Yes, I think that every age is beautiful. Every wrinkle is a part of my life, and I am not unhappy to be who I am today. This is the type of woman I am trying to reach—the kind who is confident enough to feel comfortable in her life.
ELLE: For many years, male designers dominated fashion, even though the industry is geared towards selling to women. Now that there are more women in positions of power, do you feel it has impacted the business?
SD: Male designers are very creative—if we are speaking of Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga—but their perception of the woman is really the myth of the woman. Female designers really work more for women with shape, not just some tall, thin girl. We want to move, work, be able to drive a car. Sometimes, you have a collection where you can’t even move; the replica shoes are beautiful but difficult to walk in. Every pair of shoes I design, I try them myself. If I cannot walk in them, they’re discarded. There’s nothing worse than wearing 10- or 12-centimetre heels and being unable to walk.