Happy days


An en­gag­ing and al­ready gen­er­a­tional brand, Paul & Joe cel­e­brates its twen­ti­eth an­niver­sary. Here is our meet­ing with its founder, So­phie Mechaly, at her Parisian ap­part­ment.

The meet­ing was set two blocks away from the In­valides. So­phie Mechaly ar­rives, rushed and cheer­ful. She is late ; Held in the of­fice, she had to over­come the Parisian traf­fic. She im­me­di­ately es­tab­lishes this nat­u­ral good hu­mor that is found in each of her creations as she seems to have lost none of the op­ti­mism and en­thu­si­asm of her early days. Born in Paris, Mechaly grew up in the Rive Gauche area, in a lov­ing and dis­creet fam­ily whose main val­ues are hard work and com­mit­ment. After high school, she ma­jors in busi­ness man­age­ment at the univer­sity, only to drop out a few months later. Her mother, pan­icked, finds her an in­tern­ship with Azze­dine Alaïa. “When I ar­rived in the Rue de Bel­lechasse, I was amazed by this great cou­turier, his muses and his creations. I stayed there for a year do­ing dif­fer­ent tasks.. I lost seven pounds hop­ing to be able to get into the clothes! My first pur­chase was an ul­tra-tight body polo shirt. “Mar­ried and al­ready mother of two young chil­dren, she soon launched her own la­bel, Paul & Joe, of­fer­ing a modern, orig­i­nal and col­or­ful mas­cu­line wardrobe, in­spired by the Happy Days TV se­ries. The im­me­di­ate suc­cess is such that her buy­ers urge her to cre­ate a col­lec­tion for women. That was in 1997. Since then, the de­signer con­tin­ues to ex­plore, sea­son after sea­son, the retro-ro­man­tic style that is dear to her and adopted by celebri­ties such as Gwyneth Pal­trow, Ju­lia Roberts, Kate Moss, Alexa Chung, Vanessa Par­adis or, more re­cently, the Duchess of Cam­bridge. Her fond­est mem­ory? Fea­tur­ing her Not­ting Hill store in Woody Allen’s Match Point movie with Scar­lett Jo­hans­son.

Per­se­ver­ance and pas­sion Dresses blouses, jump­suits, tops ruf­fles, shirts and mas­cu­line coats are her best-sell­ers. If the at­ti­tude has evolved some­what, the look of the woman Paul & Joe, fem­i­nine, cheer­ful and al­ways chic, has re­mained true to its roots, not flirt­ing with the tem­po­rary ten­den­cies of a sea­son. Her col­lec­tions are a di­rect re­flec­tion of her swing­ing tem­per­a­ment. “I imag­ine looks and sil­hou­ettes for in­de­pen­dent women, spir­ited, free, open and joy­ful.” The char­ac­ter that still in­spires her? Olivia New­tonJohn in Grease. Play­ing on male-fe­male codes, her spring-sum­mer 2017 col­lec­tion is more street and sport than usual, but the Paul & Joe touch, with de­tails of lace, em­broi­dery and other knots, is still there. “I wanted for the sum­mer more over­sized sil­hou­ettes and less girlie.” In the era of fast fash­ion, the chal­lenge of the de­signer is three­fold: “To re­main faith­ful to the sin­gu­lar iden­tity of the brand, to be more creative than ever and to pro­duce high qual­ity pieces.” Re­viv­ing a prac­tice from her be­gin­nings, So­phie of­fers in her shops choices that she calls her “in­vited” brands: “I want to share my fa­vorites with my cus­tomers.” To­gether with her own col­lec­tions, you can find Marie Licht­en­berg em­broi­dered shirts, Pyj Paris pa­ja­mas, Nili Lotan ba­sics, R13 jeans and Camilla El­ph­ick’s shoes. “We will also of­fer a col­lec­tion of bags in col­lab­o­ra­tion with East­pack.”

Hav­ing grown into a mini-em­pire, Paul & Joe is a lifestyle brand, built in the im­age of its founder. Paul & Joe Sis­ters, Paul & Joe Eye­wear (whose suc­cess has been as­tound­ing in France and the United States), has a dozen bou­tiques and a hun­dred points of sale world­wide. And Paul & Joe Beauty (with a skin­care and make-up range de­vel­oped by Al­bion, the gi­ant of Ja­panese ex­cel­lence). Per­se­ver­ance and pas­sion are her key words. De­spite her fan­ci­ful na­ture, So­phie is a sea­soned busi­ness woman. Li­censes, ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns, look­books, run­ways, noth­ing es­capes her. “I love shoot­ing ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns. Choos­ing the pho­tog­ra­pher is a great time for me. I have worked with im­mensely tal­ented pho­tog­ra­phers such as Patrick De­marche­lier, Terry Richard­son, Mikael Jans­son, Corinne Day and many oth­ers.”

“I imag­ine looks and sil­hou­ettes for in­de­pen­dent women, spir­ited, free, open and joy­ful.”

The artis­tic gene With a sharp eye, in­sa­tiable cu­rios­ity and unique flair, the creator cap­tures the air of time like no­body. She was the first in 1998, to imag­ine bou­tique-apart­ments, with ul­tra-cozy am­biance mix­ing Ja­panese wall­pa­per, retro fur­ni­ture and kawai amulets, with pieces that she cu­rated per­son­ally with love and care as if she were furnishing her own apart­ment. The Parisian apart­ment of So­phie is arty and warm, and even more re­fined. It has just been ren­o­vated ac­cord­ing to her own style. The eclec­tic dec­o­ra­tion mixes vin­tage and con­tem­po­rary de­sign fur­ni­ture, with pho­tos and works of art. The de­signer has also kept cer­tain an­i­mal­is­tic and girlie de­tails - her trade­mark. “After ten years of liv­ing in the same apart­ment, I had ac­cu­mu­lated many ob­jects to which I am no longer at­tached.” The works of art, all play­ful and hy­per-vis­ual, an­i­mate the dif­fer­ent rooms of the house: the plush bench, the broth­ers Cam­pana in the en­trance, François-xavier Lalanne’s sculp­tures, Yoshit­omo Nara’s draw­ing and Claude Lévêque’s ta­pes­try and neon in­stal­la­tion in the liv­ing room, the rock­ing horse of the same artist in the TV room, or the of­fice with but­ter­fly pat­tern by For­nasetti in the bed­room. “It’s my fa­vorite room. This is where ev­ery­thing hap­pens.” Al­though she loves host­ing din­ners, cook­ing means very lit­tle to her. “But I do great shop­ping!” Pas­sion­ate about arts and crafts, So­phie has al­ways had an artis­tic touch. “As a child, I played the pi­ano and I did clas­si­cal dance. I par­tic­i­pated in many com­pe­ti­tions and dreamed of be­com­ing a pi­anist. Even to­day, I’m an opera fan.” The best time of her day is in the evening, when she re­turns home, where she lives with her youngest son, Paul. “We tell each other about our day and then we have din­ner. He cooks very well. “His el­dest, Adrien, works not far from her. He has set up his uni­sex ready-to-wear brand, Garçons In­fidèles, with punk and new wave style codes. So­phie’s in­ner clan con­sists of her faith­ful press of­fi­cer, Jean-marc Fel­lous, her two best child­hood friends, her two broth­ers who live abroad, and her par­ents. she loves good food, card games, wood fires, bike rides and sport in gen­eral. Tokyo fas­ci­nates her, but she never feels home when she’s in Los An­ge­les or Capri. In France, she en­joys ski­ing in Val Thorens or re­lax­ing dur­ing the week­end in the Luberon. “I travel as soon as I have the op­por­tu­nity and the time.” Her next big step, cel­e­brat­ing fif­teen years of Paul & Joe Beauty and, why not, the cre­ation of a fra­grance ... we can al­most imag­ine its scent.

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