Designer Spotlight: la fille d’O
Murielle Victorine Scherre is just what you would expect the woman behind la fille d’O to be: witty, spunky, quirky, bold, and impassioned. She, through the help of her small team, built a brand that acts as a haven for alternative lingerie enthusiasts. Her vision for a world unfettered by touched up campaigns and lingerie that allows for nearly any shift of the occasion is a refreshing, welcome change to what we have gotten used to from other brands. From deriving inspiration for the brand’s name from a movie about domineering a woman to scraping the classic sizing system and creating her own, Murielle definitely follows her passions through to the end to create an utterly unique brand experience. Scroll down for a look into the mind of this incredibly creative woman.
All About la fille d’O
“My brand is called la fille d’O, daughter of ‘O because it can be any woman. I want to show all those shades of beauty.”- Murielle Scherre
Can you explain the inspiration for the brand name?
You need to do some homework in order to fully grasp the atmosphere. Watch the original French version of Histoire d’O. It’s a story of a female photographer who’s quite successful and falls in love with a mysterious man. He lures her into sacrificing her freedom and she agrees to become an object of desire. She is no longer allowed to look a man in the eyes, never to close her mouth again. She has to wear dresses with easy access. A whole bunch of new rules guide her through and she is severely punished when breaking them. Not a very feminist piece of work but I was blown away by her story. I am pretty radical myself and I always decide what’s going to happen next, so it’s kind of interesting to me if somebody could get away with telling me what to do. I’m flirting with this dominant and submissive behavior on a daily basis and I noticed a lot of women of my generation struggle with those same boundaries. We consider ourselves liberated and post-feminists but still are aching to please and to be adored. It’s hard to combine that loathing and loving of attention. This ping pong of energy sure keeps me going.The name literally means ‘daughter of ‘O’, to indicate a whole new generation of women who dare to take this journey with me.
How would you describe the La Fille d’O woman?
She is curious. She is aware. She’s a dreamer. She is alert like an animal. She is an animal. Always.
Can you explain a little about why you do not touch up your campaign pictures and how you choose your models?
I love reality. I see so much beauty in it on a daily basis. I feel fooled with all this touching up and improving the goodness that surrounds us. It bores the hell out of me. I want to see the bruises on your skin because it make me happy to see you are out there and it makes me curious to know how you got them. I am interested in women and I like showing women I find beautiful and interesting. My brand is called la fille d’O, daughter of ‘O because it can be any woman. I want to show all those shades of beauty. Slender athletic women. Fit curvy women. Voluptuous sculptures of women. Variation is very attractive to me, I love specific scars or a rebellious tooth or abundance of freckles. What I love most is health. I want la fille d’O to show you all this beauty, as a refreshing contre-courant of reality. I want to surprise you with things you have seen before.
La Fille d’O offers a wide spectrum of sizes – why was it important to offer this selection?
It was a natural process. We started out with the classic A,B and C cups. They hold no real technical challenges, which is why every brand focusses on those sizes. They used to be the most common sizes but that is a thing from the past. Young women have an average D cup now and still I am surprised with the occasional G cup that comes to our boutique in search of salvation. If these women are eager to help us out, they are very valuable help to us. Their experience enables us to actually develop a new size range. Everything we develop is based on the goodwill of our customers. Like making the masectomy bra and the breastfeeding bra, it would have never been possible without our experts.
Can you talk a little about La Fille d’O’s unique dimensions system? How does this benefit the customer?
Ah our size system. It’s been troubling a lot of people but it’s been helping even more people. I am interested in the evolution of lingerie and during research I noticed that cupsizes are a recent invention. Before the invention of supermarkets there was no such thing as a cupsize. You bought your lingerie at your local boutique and the owner would measure you or knew your size by heart. She would give you the right chestsize and adjust the back to your exact measurements by hand. Made-to-measure avant la lettre. Technically this was possible since the cups were going up one size at a time, as were the backs. With the arrival of supermarkets, there was no friendly skilled lady to adjust your bra, so they constructed prefab versions of what they used to do by hand; trying to create every possible contour size, combined with every possible cup size. This resulted in a huge amount of different sizes to stock if a lingerie department was eager to provide a full service to their customers. At least 16 pieces to cover one design in the most common sizes!
Since this is a nightmare for small boutiques I decided to analyze the sizing system and adapt it to my vision. The sizing system should be universal but we all know that is all but true. I decided it was not too impolite to sweep it off the table and start anew.
At la fille d’O we combine the old and the new. We analyzed our customer’s sizes and create an average contour combined with a logically grading cup size. Since you can adjust our contour for at least 10 cm this means one bra can cover three contours. This means the shops have three times more chances to find a customer for this bra. Three times less stock. It’s a revelation for women who shuffle in between contour-sizes or who tend to change weight a lot.
The flip-side is we sell less bra’s bien sur, but I know there is a lingerie designer’s heaven where my seat is reserved. You are most welcome.
“La fille d’O is unlike any other collection you have in store. It shows you are curious and always on the look-out for new candy to serve your customers.”
How did you come up with the concept to make lingerie that could double as swimwear?
To be honest: I didn’t come up with it. In Belgium it’s a necessity. We have such bad weather nobody really buys swimwear here. I used to wear my bikini’s all year round as if I could bring out the sun by honoring it with appropriate attire. The only difference we have between our lingerie and swimwear is an aesthetic one: if it’s see-through, dont wear it to the pool — or wear it at your own risk. All our designs have the technical support needed to be able to use them all as swimwear. It’s up to you really to decide how you will apply your la fille d’O designs. I kind of like the idea to be able to go to the beach any given time. To take off that dress and be ready for that rare ray of sun. Like boyscouts taught me: always be prepared. We like to support you in whatever you do, whenever you want to do it.
How do you feel retailers can take advantage of a collection like La Fille d’O?
La fille d’O is unlike any other collection you have in store. It shows you are curious and always on the look-out for new candy to serve your customers. La fille d’O could be a superficial hype, but your customer will find we don’t just own aesthetics. We breathe the avant-garde and your customer will live the revelation of highly technical materials combined with a refreshing respect for the female body. It’s soothing to re-discover their own body like this, freed from invasive molded shapes. To be able to look at your own natural body again, to be able to touch it and actually feel the flesh, delicately supported. La fille d’O is different. Sharing this secret with your customer shows you care.
Murielle, having studied design at a fashion school did you always plan to work in lingerie?
Not at all. I didn’t even dream about an actual job in fashion. I knew the chances were slim. After studying for a year in fashion I noticed I preferred to work closely on the body. It gets more technical the closer you get to the skin. I like that — I’m a nerd like that.
How did your experience working in the different ateliers help you become the designer you are today?
When I just quit school I worked for a fashion designer but my heart was already in lingerie. The academy has a very artistic (unrealistic) approach to life. You either need a bucket of gold or the key to your own factory. Since I had neither I held back when I did my second job application to head a factory in a corsetry company. Now I am ever so happy I did cause I could not have had a better lesson in life. It was so unglamorous it was almost painful. Being bit so hard by reality it made me an even more practical designer. I love the challenge of making a creative idea become a realistic fact. A relevant design, that supports women literally and physically. If I would have stayed amongst fashion people much longer I would have become very stuck up and eerie. I prefer to be well grounded and feed my creativity with the boundaries of gravity.
What kinds of lingerie did you originally design for yourself before deciding to launch La Fille d’O?
My first collection for la fille d’O was based on what I did for my graduation collection, so more or less the same. Although, I haven’t used color in 10 years, until now and since then.
My graduation was based on the contrast between Betty Page and Lolita, an eternal fight in every woman I know. The innocent vs. the skilled player. Fabrics represented that vibe with plain cotton contrasted with black leather or colorful lace and see-through mesh.
What are some of your other interests and hobbies?
I had a lot of hobbies. I managed to incorporate almost all of them in my job. This is ever so satisfying. Horseriding would be the only one missing. I might just move to Texas and have my horse in my studio.
Do you listen to music while you design?
I listen to music all the time. Music makes me tick. All my designs are named after randomly mashed up song titles. Songs are such a direct portal into someone’s mood. Sometimes I am jealous of how direct this communication is. Most of the time I just listen to the lyrics and get carried away to the sound of the beat.
If you were not working at La Fille d’O what would you be doing?
That is not an option.
What do you consider your favorite lingerie piece to be?
The One Skin Bra.
What is the most important thing – materials etc. you take into consideration when designing?
The body and the brain. Our senses have been neglected for all these years, numbed by uniforms of so called sexuality. I love to surprise. To amaze people. Then there is the technical challenge, finding the right fabrics to enable the idea and become something tangible.
I want the first thing to be primordial for the customer, but the second thing is my main concern. If I have succeeded the technical part should be of no concern to the woman wearing la fille d’O.
What’s been your biggest design challenge?
Sizes. It’s driving me mad sometimes that lingerie shapes the body, where as clothes just sit around it. That requires a very slow process of a zillion trials and even more errors before you actually get the ‘dreamshape’, with your body being the cake and the lingerie the mold to make you into something yummy. I need real women around me at all times to get naked and test my new designs. I’m lucky enough to actually have them around me. Yes!
The Business of Lingerie
“We have fans all over the world sending me the cutest of attentions and pictures, showing us their love. This makes me humble and curious to see what else is in store for us.”
What is the most exciting part of reaching your company’s 10-year anniversary?
Working with other people. Seeing them just as motivated as me to enter this playground called ‘O and observing how they use it well. I never had money to spend on anything else than developing new designs so it sooths me to see all these people around me motivated and eager to play along. This year is an ode to all the people who have created la fille d’O with me and a slight peek at what will happen in the next 10 years.
Can you talk about the changes have taken place over the course of the 10 years working for La Fille d’O?
I started by myself. In my own house. Now we are a flexible team of at least 5 people giving it all we got. We have fans all over the world sending me the cutest of attentions and pictures, showing us their love. This makes me humble and curious to see what else is in store for us.
What can we expect from La Fille d’O in the coming season?
We have a new homepage coming up any day now. We are showing our new collections at the Paris Salon de La Lingerie in July. I am visiting our new customers in the U.S. in August, during Curve expo. We have a retrospective planned in October, showing our archive and new work. There will be a party, bien sur. We are launching two limited lfd’O editions with a well-known photographer and with a charming Belgian band. If all goes well our expo will travel after being launched in our hometown of Ghent on the 12th of October. And we are doing something nice on vinyl then too. *Smirk*