In The Eyes of Sylvette Lepers
An interview with Sylvette Lepers, Head of the Creator and Image partnerships La Redoute, by Laurence Benaïm.
From a summer internship to a full-blown career. In 1981, when she was just eighteen, Sylvette Lepers began her career as an intern at La Redoute. She progressed from employee to buyer, from head of the ready-to-wear style office to head of the press department. Her curiosity and eye for detail became her signature, and thanks to an organisation based on co-creation at every level, she developed a genuine trust-based relationship with the designers. But Lepers is not just an innovator: through her work, she defends fashion, taste and the desire to share the best of the best with the general public. It is the "beauty at the price of ugliness" that Maïmé Arnodin and Denise Fayolle turned into a popular design ideal at Prisunic in the 1960s. Today, Lepers' commitment is as much about passing on knowledge as it is about discovery and agility. She was honoured as a Chevalière des Arts et des Lettres in 2023 and has been leading fashion and interior design collaborations at La Redoute for more than ten years. Under her leadership, the Roubaix-based e-commerce company has become a recognised reference for designers.
What was your first collaboration?
It was in 2011 with Anthony Vaccarello, following the advice of Lou Doillon, who told me "This boy has a lot of talent, you should meet him.” Two years later, I proposed the same thing to Simon Jacquemus, as well as Sézane, Balzac, Dawei, Koché, Vanessa Seward, Mossi, Yasmine Eslami and Alexandre Blanc. At La Redoute, collaborations have existed since 1969: there was Emmanuelle Khanh, then Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent Azzedine Alaïa, Rykiel... I wanted to broaden the spectrum by defending and supporting young designers, from Chlore swimwear to Jolie Mômes responsible lingerie, not forgetting Sœur, The Label Edition or even La Veste.
And the most recent collaboration?
Norman Mabire-Larguier, winner of the 2022 La Redoute x HEAD-Genève Prize (Geneva University of Art and Design) for a capsule collection. The designer demonstrates the power of his world, as precious as it is rigourous, in three radically elegant black pieces. He has been selected for this year's Hyères Festival. The collection, produced in collaboration with La Redoute will be released in November.
What guides you?
As a jury member for several schools, including HEAD in Geneva, where we developed a close friendship five years ago, I always get the same thrill out of discovering new talent. Plus, [I get to] share these revelations by bringing them to life in another reality, that of the general public. [It’s about] creative style at affordable prices, while defending the principle of quality.
What is a priority for you?
Giving visibility to young designers, from Benjamin Benmoyal to Kevin Germanier, as well as to young brands like Maison Château Rouge. Then there are more unusual projects like About A Worker, a project carried out by a creative duo who gave a voice to textile workers, in this case employees of our logistics centre in Roubaix.
What is your way of working?
It's a collaboration that takes on its full meaning through dialogue, meetings, and the creation of new designs. We're lucky to have a model-maker who understands the personality of designers, who can grasp what they want. I work on instinct. I need to feel what I want beforehand. I want everything to be done with trust and transparency. La Redoute takes care of production, shoots and communication.
How do you perceive emerging creation in 2023?
The more time goes by, the more I find these young people incredible. They are a tremendous source of energy for me. I feel they are responsible and very clear-headed. Nothing is easy, they know that; but they are driven by passion.
What do you think is their secret?
To innovate. Remaining flexible and, above all, true to their DNA. What we like most of all is to meet a designer's requirements, which are strong and inspiring. Designers come to La Redoute to explore our fabric library, and we find solutions together. For example, Clara Daguin, a guest for summer 2024, has replaced LEDs with reflective strips. I believe in creativity, imagination and know-how – in values that are sometimes scorned on social media. I love meaningful things. Passion is what drives us. We are fortunate to be supported with tremendous understanding by the Galeries Lafayette Group. The creative project has a pragmatic dimension. While the principle of collaboration has become commonplace, we always try to keep things surprising. Our luxury is to take our time. An image is built up very slowly and can be destroyed very quickly. Our real secret is passion.
Do you have a dream?
To stage an exhibition showcasing all these collaborations.
This interview has been lightly edited.