“My approach is intuitive, without a business plan, but with an absolute aesthetic ideal”.
As part of our feature on the new luxury entrepreneurs, Luxury Tribune offers a series of portraits of designers who dare the absolute luxury, who bet on the "ultrameasure", without compromise. The first in this series is Céline Surdez, Swiss designer of the brand Pardessus19.
By Cristina D’Agostino09 novembre 2021
For Céline Surdez, where there is know-how, there are skills. And an absolute respect for the craftsman who handles the beautiful. From Neuchâtel, founder and director of the Inedit New Brand Factory (IENBF), specialising in the production of objects and gifts for brands, Céline Surdez has made a commitment to absolute luxury. That of aesthetics and quality without compromise. Today, she is creating a new brand of leather coats, Pardessus19, a new entrepreneurial challenge in a highly competitive world. A daring move. Here are some explanations.
You are launching your brand Pardessus19 in an extremely competitive sector. What motivates this decision?
It's the story of a lifetime. I've been working in the world of luxury accessories for almost twenty years, thanks to my company IENBF. This new brand is a distillation of everything I have seen and learned in my career beside the best craftsmen. I started the process backwards. I didn't start with the price, nor the cost, nor even the potential margins, but with the beautiful. I chose the best know-how, the aesthetic closest to my ideal of perfection, and only then did I look at how much it would cost to produce the leather coats, to determine my selling price.
Without worrying whether this price would correspond to an expectation?
Never. My approach was intuitive. I wanted to create something new, special, different from the classic accessory of a bag or a belt, which I could already create for my customers thanks to my "white label" activity. One day, while visiting one of my partner craftsmen, I had a kind of revelation, a love at first sight for a particular technique, that of printing on leather. He has a unique know-how, with an impressive finesse of execution. Moreover, he works for the greatest fashion houses.
Was it then that you decided to create reversible leather jackets, with interior printing?
Yes, I first made this jacket for myself, according to my wishes. I wanted something easy, simple and elegant. I was inspired by kimonos, something that everyone can wear, that requires a minimum of sizing and that unleashes creativity. The interest of this piece is that I don't consider it a garment. I don't make clothes, I make accessories and this jacket is a new accessory, which you buy like a handbag. You put it over everything. That's how the name of the brand came about.
How would you describe your designs?
Beauty is the common thread. An aesthetic of great finesse that can be recognised in the quality of the skin, and an inner creative richness, thanks to the pattern of the artistic work that can only be seen if you turn the coat inside out. It reflects the intimate personality of the wearer. The overcoat is very light. It looks like fabric or silk, but it's all leather on both sides, completely reversible. I choose the best leather. An animal that has had a decent life, that's important. Lamb leather, dipped.
Have you tried vegan leathers, which are more and more in demand today?
I have tried everything. I tried pineapple leather, apple leather... but nothing that would meet my expectations in the result. I didn't want to compromise on the beautiful. You should know that pineapple leather, for example, is full of glue and starch. Complete sustainability has not yet been achieved in these areas. If I had gone for apple leather, I would have had to produce a huge quantity - the only way to get it - and then use only a small part of it. It's not environmentally friendly either. By choosing an animal skin, I use all of the skin. Everything is made to measure and calculated, there is no waste. Each piece is unique and individually hand-printed. I don't keep any stocks.
Where are your coats made?
Everything is produced in Italy, in Tuscany. I have my whole network there, valuable artisans that I already work with for my white label business. They are all 100 km apart. The design and artistic creation, on the other hand, is done in Switzerland. The illustrator Asia Dusong who creates the interior designs is in Neuchâtel, as is Ségolène Aebi, the designer of our 19 pattern.
Why the number 19 in your brand?
It's my lucky number. Everything in my life is 19. And the number is universal.
Is your brand self-financed?
Yes, entirely, up to now. It's a bit like investing in a house! But this is not my first time. I failed three times before launching Pardessus19. I had studied all the business plans. But when money is at the core of the thinking, the directions taken are not always the right ones. Now that the project has been launched, I want to share this adventure by opening up to investors and giving more strength to Pardessus19. I believe in the power of sharing.
What is the price range?
Prices start at 10,000 Swiss francs. This is a daring price positioning. But buying a Pardessus19 can be the same as buying a work of art, a watch or a piece of jewellery. You indulge yourself and you wear an object that resembles you, that lasts and that allows the craftsmen who made it to be paid at their fair value.
How do you meet your customers?
We organise roadtrips in Switzerland to meet our customers, based on a network that we have built. We want to bring them together around events, like the one organised for our launch a month ago. We will be exclusively in Switzerland for the moment, but the goal will be to find the right distributors for foreign markets, and online sales will soon be available. The aim is to surprise customers, by organising unexpected meetings in unique places.
How did the launch go? Are you satisfied with the sales?
We have sold a few pieces, and the goal is to sell about 20 coats by the end of the year. But it will be difficult to become known on a larger scale without calling for new funding. I have invested half a million francs to produce the first pieces and launch the brand. Subsequently, the plan is to use the brand for other products. Everything has been thought through in order to, one day, create fabric collections, belts, bags, and even underwear. There are still many talents out there I want to enhance!
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