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Fashion's Evolving Landscape: A Conversation with Fashion Industry Insider Laura Darmon
NCO 034
2023-04-11
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by
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Laura Darmon is a creative force to be reckoned with. Her unique vision as a trend visionary in today's fast-paced world shine through in her discussion of emerging trends and her focus on building unique brand identities.

N: Can you please share some insights about yourself, and your journey in fashion and discuss your current roles at ENG and DIDU?

L: I entered the fashion industry seven years ago after graduating from a design school in Paris. However, I soon discovered that my true passion lay in the strategic and operational aspects of growing fashion businesses. Rather than designing garments, I found myself drawn to developing tailored strategies to boost productivity, streamline business operations, and gain deep insights into customer needs and preferences. I developed a keen eye for analyzing market trends and creating needs with effective marketing strategies and realized that my skills were better suited to the dynamic world of business.

That led me to co-found and launch an online retail store called Elevastor, which later became physical. I was responsible for the entire artistic direction and brand mix curation. My partner wasn’t very involved, so it was a real challenge for me to do many jobs simultaneously. This experience taught me a lot! Right after resigning, I was invited to join L'insane - the world's first non-binary concept store - as its buyer director. In this role, I had the opportunity to help launch a physical store in Paris. With unparalleled freedom, I could curate a selection of emerging designers (at the time) such as DIDU, Eckhaus Latta, Ludovic de Saint Sernin alongside the first Casey Cadwallader collection for Mugler! L'insane also became the first retailer for brands like Telfar, Barragan, Dilara Findikoglu etc.

By providing a platform for both established, well-known designers and talented emerging brands from around the world, we sought to showcase unique perspectives and challenge the traditional norms of the fashion industry.

By the end of 2019, during the three months quarantine in France, I helped launch the brand DIDU, which I now oversee all business aspects. Meanwhile, I always wanted to move to Asia since very young, and I was particularly drawn to China. While working with DIDU, I got the opportunity to join and handle the buying and business development for a Chinese-based concept store called ENG, which had just opened its first door in Shanghai in 2019. Right now, we have successfully expanded to 6 locations across key cities in China. This has been a wonderful journey and experience for me which is still ongoing.

N: With an impressive educational background and extensive experience in luxury fashion, you have developed a keen understanding of fashion's many facets and its potential for expanded storytelling through diverse narratives, platforms, and formats. As the recent article “BUSINESS OF FASHION CONFIRMS ENG’S LEADING ROLE ON THE GLOBAL FASHION MAP” affirmed, ENG "unfolds these hyper-concentrated synesthetic/multi-sensorial narratives, providing a glimpse of the aesthetic and musical roots of the creative team’s inner vision through playlists, art collaborations, and ambitious in-store events.”

Can you elaborate on these exchanges of experiences with different interdisciplinary artists? How do you think the transversality of media use has impacted digital curation and the broader understanding of fashion?

L: The convergence of various media has had a significant impact on digital curation and the way we perceive fashion. Digital platforms have allowed us to create more immersive experiences for our customers, enabling us to tell stories beyond just the clothes and connect with a wider audience. By collaborating with interdisciplinary artists and exploring different mediums, we can create a multi-sensorial experience that enhances the fashion narrative and pushes the boundaries between art and fashion. As fashion draws inspiration from design, music, architecture, and other artistic fields, our role as professionals in the industry is to create a link with people through various forms of expression and foster creative processes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, I invited musician BFRND to deliver a digital DJ set to keep the scene moving and engage with our audience, despite the challenges of physical restrictions due to COVID-19. Incorporating interdisciplinary artists and different media formats helps us broaden the understanding of fashion and its storytelling potential. For our brand launches, we curate installations alongside designers and artists who match the brand's direction. Our events are complimented by the right sound environment to convey the desired message and showcase the artists' work. We also commission artists to create sculptures or art pieces for our stores, such as the incredible Centinela sculpture by Carlos Saez, which is part of our permanent store installation. Furthermore, we have worked closely with Nik Kosmas, commissioning him to create both a sculpture and a chair.

N: How would you describe your journey in the music industry, and in what ways do you think it aligns with or complements your career in fashion?

L: Music has always been a passion of mine, but I never saw it as a potential career path. However, my love for music has complemented my career in fashion in a number of ways. When I was asked to create the music soundtrack for DIDU's SS21 collection, it was a great opportunity for me to use my self-taught Ableton skills and collaborate with friends to create something that truly reflected the brand's roots and DNA.

Before that, I had mostly DJ for fun and among friends, but after moving to Shanghai, I met a great and small music circle community who encouraged me to play in clubs and explore the local music scene. This allowed me to play in great underground clubs such as Heim in Shanghai or Tag in Chengdu, as well as private parties back in Paris.

Overall, I see music and fashion as two sides of the same coin, both requiring creativity, passion, and the ability to tell a story. My journey in the music industry has complemented my career in fashion by providing me with a different perspective and a set of skills that I can use to elevate the brands I work with.

N: When it comes to the latest DIDU SS23 collection, what words, inspirations, or metaphors come to mind to describe its essence and creative direction?

L: This collection reflects DIDU's personal experience of moving from China to Paris and the resulting cultural clash. It mixes European ballet references with Chinese late 1920s opulence aesthetics. This collection can be seen as a way of embracing chaos with something smoothly dramatic. For me, it also represents a soft switch from what DIDU could have been associated with in the past - such as edginess - to a much more mature and cleaner direction. It shows the brand growing alongside the designer herself.

N: As a renowned trend visionary in today's fashion scene, what emerging trends do you currently observe, and what would you like to see evolve in the near future?

L: I believe that discussing trends has become somewhat obsolete in today's fast-paced world where trends cycle so quickly. Rather, what we see now is that brands are increasingly focused on building their own unique identities to ensure long-term success. In terms of diversity and inclusivity, we have seen progress in recent years, particularly in the realm of runway shows and editorial content. This has involved greater representation not only in terms of race and ethnicity, but also in regards to body size and gender identity.

However, we are only beginning to see these changes trickle down to the retail level and the wider consumer audience. One notable development in this regard is the gradual blurring of gender lines when it comes to consumer purchasing behavior. As a result, traditional merchandising strategies may no longer be applicable in the same way, which I find to be a positive and encouraging trend.

N: Lastly, what projects or ideas are you currently focusing on, and what thoughts do you have on your mind at these times?

L: Currently, I am involved in several different projects with ENG and DIDU. With DIDU, my focus is on implementing new strategies and structures to take the company to the next level, particularly in the context of our expansion into Paris. This process involves a lot of changes to our working processes, which is both challenging and exciting.

Meanwhile, with ENG, we are in the process of opening our first flagship store in Paris, which we believe will be a game-changer in the city's retail landscape. We are also working on launching two more strategic locations in China: Chengdu and Beijing, and my focus is on improving the overall business and positioning in an organic way.

On a personal level, I am also trying to dedicate more time to music as I would like to do something significant in the near future.

All images courtesy of Laura Darmon.
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