Born from a family of talented seamstresses, it is no wonder why Marie Dewet is so fervently passionate about disrupting the fashion cycle. Inspired by her mother’s unique sense of style, and the strong and empowered women of her family, Marie offers a beautiful alternative to fast fashion consumerism, and that alternative is - Maison Cléo.
Maison Cléo does not produce a seasonal collection; and instead only produces based on a made-to-order basis. No stock means no waste, and to add to this, they only use recycled fabrics from other fashion houses. When asked about what we can do as consumers to secure a greener future, Marie rallies for the value of buying second-hand, and the excitement brought about by actually having the patience to wait for fashion that’s really worth waiting for.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. What made you fall in love with fashion?
I fell in love with fashion when my mother bought me a copy of American Vogue on holiday. I was thirteen or fourteen, and I remember it was Sascha Pivovarova on the cover and the photographers were Mert and Marcus. I put all of the pictures on the walls of my bedroom, and from then on, I fell deeply in love with everything about fashion. I studied communications and did all my internships in fashion, working for designers and young brands in Paris and Brussels. I am currently working with Vestiaire Collective as the VIP Service manager since last September.
Tell us the inspiration behind your brand name - Maison Cléo?
I chose Cleo because this is my mother's nickname. All her old friends called her by that name. The nickname came from the fact that her look was a cool combination of short dark hair, golden jewellery, and black eyeliner. The term Maison, on the other hand, comes from the family story behind the brand. All of the great women in our family were gifted seamstresses. My great-great grandmother was called Louise, and she was the head of a workshop in Northern Paris. She had a lot of Parisian customers coming to her workshop to have their dresses tailor-made by her.
It seems that fashion has been in your family for generations. Could you tell us about how your family inspires your brand?
My mother is always sewing, and she has always made all of me and my sister’s clothes. She graduated from a sewing school at the age of twenty, and there is literally nothing she can’t sew. My grandmother had the same background. She had four children and made all of their clothes as well. I myself never learned how to sew, but I did learn how to draw. I think this came from my communications background, but now I am using this skill to design pieces for Maison Cléo.
Every product by Maison Cléo is handmade, with the aim of making French Craftsmanship accessible. In what other ways does your brand disrupt the fashion production cycle?
We don't present any collections, we don't have a schedule to follow, and don't have to present one, two, three, or even four collections in a year like other fashion brands. We never produce our own fabrics. Instead, we buy leftovers from couture Houses, designers, and suppliers. We launch new pieces when we want to, following our desires and the changing seasons, and also according the fabrics we find. Not to mention, every piece is made to order. This means that we have nothing in stock — so no waste.
Thanks to this system, each customer can have a tailor-made piece, made specifically with their own measurements in mind. The customer has to wait one or two weeks in order to receive their order, because my mother needs time to make it. Nowadays, people want to have everything instantly. Our customers tell me that the waiting is very exciting, as nobody is used to waiting for anything anymore. You know that the piece has been specially made just for you, because you ordered it!
Today, sustainability is more important than ever, with brands becoming more and more concerned about their carbon footprint. What role does the fashion industry play in the effort to minimise our environmental impact as a species?
I don't see any big efforts from the big fashion industry, especially if you are talking about the big fashion brands. Even if they try to use natural or recycled fabrics, they all mass produce seasonal collections, without knowing which pieces will sell, or which pieces people will resonate with. To me, all the brands that have come to be in the last two years that offer the "made-to-order" system like us are really the examples to follow.
Everyone has a lot of clothes in their wardrobe, so really everyone can wait one or two weeks to receive new clothes. We are talking about pieces of clothing, not primary goods! When we know that fashion is the second biggest pollutant in the world, it really makes no sense to mass produce seasonal collections and then eventually have to throw away half of your production. Talking about the fabrics, I do think it’s really good to use natural or recycled fabrics, but despite this, the clothes are still mass produced in the same factories!
As consumers, how can we make a difference in protecting the future of our planet?
Buy second-hand clothes. I always do, and it makes me happy that more and more vintage and second hand shops are getting traction today. This means that more people care about the protection of the planet and are trying to change the way they consume. By the way, vintage clothes don’t necessarily mean old fashioned and used clothes. You can find treasures and really rare luxury finds with the ‘Made in France’ or ‘Made in Italy’ labels that are cheaper than something you can find on the high street. There is really no reason to not buy second hand.