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.