Posted on December 09 2015
Maison de Mode’s Leap Into E-commerce By Sofia Celeste
Hassan Pierre is the co-mastermind behind Maison de Mode, a sustainable luxury e-tailer that started out as a traveling boutique. Together with Amanda Hearst, Pierre has turned Maison de Mode into an incubator for ethical fashion labels.
ATPB contributor Sofia Celeste chatted with founder American-Haitian designer Pierre about his own line WAY IT SHOULD BE, the future of sustainability and Maison de Mode’s leap into e-commerce… just about a month ago.
SC: Looking at the designs from names like Mayet and Amour Vert, and the jewelry of Brazilian label Osklen… the fashion showcased by MAISON DE MODE is so contemporary and fashion-forward. Do you feel like people still generalize and think that sustainable means modest garb made with hemp?
HP: Yes, believe it or not there are consumers out there who are still shocked that sustainable fashion can luxurious and not stale and granola.
SC: You started your own brand WAY IT SHOULD BE, a brand that is rooted in bespoke. Tell me more about the ethos surrounding this brand.
HP: WAY IT SHOULD BE is a demi-couture label. I offer bespoke tailoring and custom fabric options for my clients. When I set out, the concept was focused on made-to-order. I started out using vintage couture fabrics from the 60s, 70s 80s. I like to call it “museum daywear.” In other words, it is for the woman who spends her summers on a sailboat in the Mediterranean. She spends the rest of her time between New York City and Palm Beach. These are items fitting for a couture client that live in couture gala pieces.
SC: Do you think that US luxury consumers are ready for bespoke couture?
HP: Selling made-to-order has gotten a lot easier. I have some really great clients. I found that in the US, there are no couturiers who will bring you fabrics. There is a total lack of that among American designers. But that is changing. The luxury consumer is shying away form ready to wear pieces that everybody has.
SC: I love all the icons on MAISON DE MODE that show if an item sold online is recycled, artisanal, MADE in USA, organic, cruelty free or for charity. Certification is the key to credibility in the sustainable fashion industry. How do you certify that the clothing sold in MDM is sustainable?
HP: If you visit the sustainability page on our site (http://maison-de-mode.com/pages/sustainability/) you’ll find a guide which shows our qualifications in which we use to decide if a brand or product is right for our site.
SC: How did you meet Amanda Hearst?
HP: Amanda and I met while she worked at Marie Claire. She came to my showroom and was doing an interview on me for my line WAY IT SHOULD BE.
SC: How did the idea come about between the two of you?
HP: Amanda and I have been in the industry for a long time. Amanda only wrote about ethical fashion, but she had a wide net of brands that she was familiar with. Because I was in the same realm, they were my contemporaries and we were all doing the same thing. That’s how I came up with the idea to do the shop. If I could get all of my contemporaries to resonate with the same message, we would be so much stronger.
SC: How do you and Amanda divide the work?
HP: We share work evenly. We do it all together. We are a great team.
SC: How have your sales performed since you started the traveling boutique in 2012? Any indicators for online sales (I know it is early)?
HP: They have doubled or tripled with every new store we opened. Now with the site it’s a whole new ball game. We won’t be able to quantify our strength for a few more months since we just launched.
SC: When did you detect there was an appetite for sustainable fashions?
HP: It was while traveling to my family’s rice plantation in Haiti, where I developed by passion for sustainability in general. After I left Parsons in NYC I decided to merge sustainability and fashion together and launched my label WAY IT SHOULD BE.
SC: When did the bulb light up in your head to start Maison de Mode?
HP: It wasn’t until my first press piece in VOGUE in early 2010 that I realized what I was doing and what a few other designers were doing was going to be the future of fashion. I then conceptualized this retail experience which was to introduce luxury sustainable brands to consumers during cultural events and it worked! I’ve been extremely lucky to be at the forefront of this sustainable fashion movement… I guess it’s the right place, right time and the right idea.
SC: What is your plan for the future – how can technology bring you closer to your goals?
HP: With the launch of the new e-commerce platform it’s a whole new way to expand the retail experience. The future of MAISON DE MODE is to use brick-and-mortar retail experiences to introduce consumers to our online platform in a tangible way. I’ve been redefining the retail landscape with MDM. From traveling boutique- turned-e-commerce powerhouse for online luxury ethical fashion with seasonal brick and mortar locations.
SC: What was the main caveat of starting the e-commerce?
HP: The demand from our customers worldwide to be able to shop our curated selection 24/7 from wherever they were.
SC: Tell me about you personally? How did you get your start in fashion?
HP: I grew up in Palm Beach with family roots in Haiti. I guess my passion for fashion comes from my mother. She’s a big couture client herself, so I was exposed to extremely rare high fashion at a young age. I remember traveling to Paris to the couture shows with her when I was very young. I’ve always known I would work in fashion being a designer; I happen to design clothes & retail experiences. It’s the best of both worlds.
SC: So many new talents – like all of the emerging African talent and Haitian-Italian designer Stella Jean are really inspired by their roots. Is that the case for you?
HP: Haiti of course. Haiti is where I conceptualize my idea for my designs and the plantations were transforming into a sustainable plantation. It is very personal and very real for me. The island itself lends to this mystic and vibrancy and intensity that you don’t find anywhere else in the world. It really does — whether it is super specific or tangible — it is always part of what I do. It is where my family is from. It is very much a part of my life and it will always be.
SC: What advice can you give to sustainable brands just starting out?
HP: Think outside the box. Being a sustainable designer requires you to think outside the box often — from innovative fabrics to design techniques — it often takes a little more thought than usual.
SC: What is it that you look for in a brand? What is the common denominator, in your words, of and on MDM?
HP: Aesthetics. Luxury. Beauty.
All images courtesy of Maison de Mode.