Interview with Chloe and Paris Gordon of Beaufille
Sisters Chloe and Parris Gordon of Beaufille know the importance of balance in beautiful design. The designer duo harmonizes both masculine and feminine elements in each of their handcrafted modern pieces, which lends their collection versatility to suit a range of styles. At one end of the spectrum, you might see their designs on the likes of Lady Gaga walking down the high street, or perhaps Cynthia Nixon at a movie premiere. Combining skills in apparel and accessory design, the sisters synthesizes elegance with edge. And after winning the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent at the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards, and making appearances at both Toronto and New York Fashion Weeks, we have a feeling this is only the beginning for Beaufille. In our exclusive interview, Plan de Ville and the Gordon girls discuss. - Allison Taylor
As sisters and business partners, you have a special history and relationship. How did you become interested in fashion, and when did you start thinking about making your own line?
We grew up in a super creative environment, with a mother who is a fine artist, painting every ceiling floor and wall of our home growing up. Creativity was always encouraged. She would set up interactive artistic activities for us such as making wrapping paper or learning how to use her sewing machine. She’s saved every Vogue she bought since the 70s so our house wasn’t short of fashion inspiration and imagery. A love and interest in art and fashion was pretty much engrained in us. We always had the exposure to it, and were able to train our creative eye at a very young age. As sisters we are really close, just 2.5 years apart and have maintained a great friendship our whole lives. We always thought we might work together and after both attending art school, being trained in our separate disciplines, the pieces (literally) came together and we decided to create a brand.
You started your first label, Chloe comme Parris in 2009, while you were both students at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned during that time?
Parris: Don’t make pieces to impress your teachers, make pieces to impress yourself. Put in the time and you’ll see the results.
Chloe: Keep experimenting, if you have an idea test it out.
Beaufille launched in 2013 and has gained a lot of attention in the past year and a half. How has the brand changed or grown between then and now?
Our following has grown from 500 to 10k (on Instagram), our production has grown over 300% in a year; people are aware of the brand and long distant dreams and goals of ours are becoming reality. That being said the pressure is on, the struggle is different and the goals are bigger. We just want to continue making authentic, ethically made product; growing our business and local production & be carefully curated globally.
Beaufille translates to “handsome girl,” which you describe the idea of balancing masculine and feminine elements. How do you keep this concept in mind as you design a collection?
The balance comes by opposing material vs. silhouette, cut vs. finish, top vs. bottom in a look. We're always aware of bringing both elements into a piece. This is something that's also engrained in us as Chloe is more masculine and Parris more feminine. When our opinions, ideas and designs are combined there seems to always be a natural balance of these opposing elements.
What was the inspiration for your Spring/Summer 2016 collection? What are some of your favorite pieces?
Spring/Summer 2016 was a focus on branding, and expanding the minimalist approach that we took to FW'15. We wanted to bring in colour but only colours that we fell in love with; rusted burgundy, foresty-olive. It's all about thinking of our brand definition/ethos as we create, doing things that feel intuitve. It was important for us to create a handmade fabric to show our customers our background in handmade textile creation. It was a risk we took but ended up being one of our most-ordered fabric.
Parris’ Favorite Piece: “The Juno blouse. It's so romantic, rock n' roll, but wearable. It’s perfect.”
Chloe’s Favorite: “The Phoebe Top its such an easy piece to wear inspired by classics we all love to wear with a twist, and its black... my favorite colour.”
Who are the women who inspire you each season? Who would you like to see wearing Beaufille in the future?
We're inspired by a huge range of women – but to name a few, our mom, Emmanuelle Alt, Stevie Nicks. We'd love to see Lou Doillon or the Haim sisters in Beaufille.
Beaufille has had some wonderful publicity, especially since you won the CAFA Swarovski Emerging Talent in Accessories Award. I’d love to hear about your experiences with the fashion press before and after that career milestone.
Press has been pretty consistent for us. That award was a great affirmation from the Canadian industry that we have been so dedicated to. What we noticed more was a spike in our jewelry sales as well as the ability to create our first fine jewelry collection; which is a great category for our brand, we do really well sales-wise this these pieces.
Tell me about your first sales season. What did you find challenging? Rewarding?
Sales is the toughest part of this business. Whether you're working with your first private sales agent, hiring a showroom in a different city or doing it yourself, sales are always challenging. SS16 was our first strong sales season. It's the most challenging to actually lock down the meetings, to get the buyers from your dream retailers in the room. The most rewarding part is the feedback positive or negative, you'll never grow if you're not getting feedback on both ends of the spectrum.
Who have you learned the most from in your career thus far? Do you have mentors?
We learn from each other and our team on a day-to-day basis. We learn so much in terms of strategy from our PR rep in NYC, Robyn Berkely. Last season in Paris we had the opportunity to spend time with Yasmin Sewell as well as Taylor Tomasi Hill whose advice and feedback was invaluable. The ladies at Smythe have been amazing mentors to us for the past couple years, and especially throughout our growth in the FW16 season. Our parents are our forever mentors.
What are some challenges that you face in your business? How have these challenges evolved in the last year? Two years?
Sales is a challenge – hitting your targets per season, breaking even. Getting the brand awareness out there especially from Canada is a challenge. Handling big production jumps that came along with our unforeseen fast growth has been a huge challenge, and learning curve this summer. In terms of handling it, it's like they say... thing's don't get easier you just get better at it, and then there are new/different challenges!
What motivates you as designers?
P: Music, passion, beauty, our team
C: Curiosity, Beauty, Perfection, The Future, Our Team
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring fashion designers and fashion students, what would it be?
Parris: Be yourself. There is no one else like you and understanding that is how you'll reach a point of difference - your signature. Understand that rejection is the best possible gift.
Chloe: It takes a lot of time, dedication, struggle, and hard work, and you need a heavy dose of passion and determination to get you through all the hurdles.
What’s next for Beaufille?
Delivering our FW16 orders, finishing up our SS17 collection and shooting it, NYFW and traveling for Paris Market.