A CUL­TURE OF CHIC

It’s the French go-to la­bel for Parisian street-wise fashion. Vogue speaks with the cre­ative force be­hind San­dro, Eve­lyne Chetrite. By Tina Isaac-Goizé.

VOGUE Australia - - CONTENTS - PHO­TO­GRAPHS ROD­NEY DEANE The cre­ative hive of the San­dro stu­dio, filled with gar­ments, ac­ces­sories and fashion sketches.

San­dro is the French go-to la­bel for Parisian street-wise fashion.

Eve­lyne Chetrite is a text­book ex­am­ple of why you shouldn’t al­ways lis­ten to your par­ents. Had she not fol­lowed her heart and in­stead done what was ex­pected of her, Chetrite would have prob­a­bly be­come a lawyer. Which means that Parisi­ennes would never have had San­dro, one of only a few as­pi­ra­tional, mid-priced French fashion brands that of­fers style-con­scious cus­tomers sta­ples and sea­sonal pieces with se­ri­ous cred, at prices that won’t break the bank.

This sea­son, that trans­lates into Cuban-in­flected state­ment pieces such as py­ja­mas edged with guipure, pearl-em­broi­dered denim jack­ets, gen­tle pink jump­suits, easy striped dresses with an open back that can go ur­ban with a pair of tuxedo-striped trousers and do dou­ble duty af­ter a day at the beach – just throw it on and you’re set for cock­tail hour.

It’s a win­ning recipe. Last Jan­uary, San­dro posted out­stand­ing sales growth, edg­ing close to 1 bil­lion eu­ros in sales (AUD1.4 bil­lion) across 540 points of sale world­wide. And it has landed Chetrite and her fam­ily – her sis­ter Ju­dith Mil­grom is the force be­hind the brand Maje – among the top 500 for­tunes in France.

To­day, San­dro and its sis­ter brands in the SMCP group (which also in­cludes Maje and Claudie Pier­lot) are ma­jor­ity-owned by Chi­nese tex­tile gi­ant Shan­dong Ruyi.

Chetrite, 57, looks as­ton­ish­ingly like a Mediter­ranean Ju­lia Roberts, with a wide, smile, a peren­nial tan and the kind of chic that non-French women of all ages strive to copy. She’s the kind of woman who can throw on kick-crop frayed jeans and a white top and look like a mil­lion dol­lars. (Clearly, both style and busi­ness savvy run in the genes: her hand­some son, Ilan, launched the thriv­ing San­dro Homme brand.)

But if Chetrite has con­quered French fashion on her own terms, she traces her in­flu­ences back to Morocco, where she lived be­fore im­mi­grat­ing to France at 15.

“I was sur­rounded by lots of artis­tic in­flu­ences,” Chetrite notes, re­call­ing how her aunt, a seam­stress, and her grand­fa­ther, a spe­cial­ist in men’s shirt­ing, ini­ti­ated her to a love of beau­ti­ful ma­te­ri­als. “There were fab­rics, rugs, Ber­ber ob­jects, lots of colours all around, from the souks to the spices, “she ex­plains.

When she was an ado­les­cent, Chetrite’s mother would have her wardrobe made twice a year. When­ever there was a party, her aunt would drop by and take mea­sure­ments for dresses. Then there would be an ex­pe­di­tion to the fab­ric mer­chant. “It seems in­cred­i­ble to­day, be­cause no-one spends three hours de­lib­er­at­ing over colour or fab­ric,” she says. It was only much later that she came to re­alise how those val­ues had stuck.

De­spite her par­ents’ view that fashion wasn’t pres­ti­gious enough, it turned out to be Chetrite’s des­tiny. Af­ter meet­ing her fu­ture hus­band, Di­dier, Chetrite started skip­ping classes at law school to hang out with her new boyfriend, who was then sales direc­tor for a cloth­ing brand in the Sen­tier, Paris’s gar­ment district. But Di­dier told her he wanted to sell his own clothes. “The only prob­lem was, he knew how to sell but didn’t have a clue about de­sign,” Chetrite ex­plains. “It might have been love or pas­sion that changed my path, but I started skip­ping class to go to the of­fice – and I was hav­ing a lot more fun,” she says with a laugh.

Overnight, Chetrite be­came a con­sul­tant, and the cou­ple launched San­dro in 1984. Chetrite set about in­fus­ing the nascent brand with what she her­self wanted to wear. San­dro has moved from strength to strength ever since, but Chetrite shies away from de­scrib­ing the ‘San­dro woman’. “In Paris, women love to mix things up and in­vent a look,” she says. “The re­sult is chic without be­ing in­stantly recog­nis­able in terms of brands.”

Asked about her own wardrobe, Chetrite counts her es­sen­tials on one hand. “Hav­ing the right jeans is very, very im­por­tant,” she says. Her other sta­ples: a per­fectly cut suit, tai­lored trousers and a sexy dress, and a good pair of ‘bas­kets’, the French term for sneak­ers.

It’s those sneak­ers – that par­tic­u­lar mix of fem­i­nine and street – that keeps chic Parisi­ennes com­ing back for more. “Ev­ery woman is sen­si­tive to [com­fort],” she says. “We live in a time when sports, move­ment and work are all a part of a woman’s life. It’s such a plea­sure to go out wear­ing trousers cropped at the an­kle, a roomy coat and bas­kets. Over­sized on top and fit­ted be­low is one of my favourite looks right now. It’s smart, and it makes sense.

“Af­ter all, we’re not just sell­ing clothes. Women have so many things in com­mon and so many things to share. To me, that’s the fu­ture. That’s San­dro.”

“OVER­SIZED ON TOP AND FIT­TED BE­LOW IS ONE OF MY FAVOURITE LOOKS NOW”

Eve­lyne Chetrite

San­dro’s head­quar­ters oc­cupy a late19th-cen­tury town­house in cen­tral Paris.

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