Parisian luxury label ALFIE, created in 2020 by designer Alice Fresnel, epitomizes the Effortless Feminine — a fusion of masculine and feminine elements, handcrafted with the utmost attention to detail. ALFIE’s Collectibles are exclusive, one-of-a-kind pieces that elevate the concept of sustainability to a new level by utilizing dead-stock fabrics from high-end fashion houses.
During our conversation, Fresnel opened up about her background and journey in the fashion world, from studying strategic design and management to launching her own label. Her experiences at prestigious institutions like Parsons School of Design and Bocconi University have shaped her unique perspective on the fashion industry, culminating in the creation of ALFIE.
Fresnel’s vision for ALFIE is to achieve the perfect balance between masculinity and femininity, showcasing the harmonious blend of these elements through simplicity in design. “When it comes to my design process, I tend to focus on keeping the cuts simple yet perfectly executed,” she explains. “I believe that simplicity in design allows the clothing to showcase the balance between masculinity and femininity more effectively.”
Alice Fresnel is committed to creating timeless, sophisticated pieces that empower the ALFIE woman. With a keen understanding of silhouettes and proportions, she masterfully crafts garments that are both stylish and sustainable. In doing so, she offers a fresh, innovative approach to luxury fashion that is undeniably captivating.
As ALFIE continues to grow and evolve, Fresnel’s dedication to sustainability and her intuitive understanding of design ensure that the brand remains at the forefront of the fashion industry. With its unique blend of masculine and feminine elements, ALFIE is poised to redefine the Effortless Feminine aesthetic for years to come.
Tell me a little bit about your background.
I’ve always been interested in fashion and pursued studies related to it since I was able to choose my academic path. However, I was more interested in the business side of fashion rather than the design aspect. I applied to Central Saint Martins in London, but unfortunately, I didn’t get accepted.
So, I decided to attend Parsons School of Design in Paris for two years. I studied strategic design and management, which focused on branding and merchandising, but also taught me how to run a business. After that, I spent a semester abroad in Sydney and then transferred to Parsons in New York to complete my degree. I loved the more creative approach to the business side of fashion at the New York campus.
When I finished my undergraduate degree, I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree in luxury management in Europe, so I enrolled at Bocconi University in Milan. As part of the program, I had to launch my own business and couldn’t really fake anything. I had to create real prototypes, collections, and find production and supplier locations in Paris. By the end of the program, I was almost ready to launch my brand, so I did after graduation. It’s been three years since I launched my brand and it has been challenging, but I am really happy with everything that I have accomplished and I am excited about the future.
That being said, how has your heritage and upbringing influenced the way you perceive fashion or approach designing?
Yeah, I think that because everything is in English on my social media and website, people in Paris are surprised to find out that my brand is actually French. There are some subtle French influences in my designs, but it’s very much an international brand. I believe that without even realizing it, my experiences living in different places, such as Sydney with its more relaxed beach vibe, have influenced my design approach.
I’ve found inspiration in the diverse cultures and environments I’ve encountered. Despite the challenges of running a fashion brand, I’m happy with what I’ve achieved and excited about what the future holds.
What was the process like when establishing and figuring out the identity of your brand?
When I was starting out, one of my friends who is now a creative director told me that it’s not just about the clothes, their quality, and design. It’s also about the story you tell. He asked me a few questions to help me discover my brand’s story. I’ve always grown up around boys, including my brothers and cousins. I wanted to be with them, but in feminine clothing. However, I felt limited in what I could do in these clothes.
As a woman, I love to dress comfortably, and I wanted to create clothing that was both feminine and practical. I designed clothes that are beautiful, versatile, and practical, and that can take me from day to night without having to worry about changing my outfit. This became the main story and identity of my brand.
Tell me about the phrase, “borrowed from the boys.”
The phrase “borrowed from the boys” is a big part of my brand because it originated from my brothers’ clothing. Whenever I didn’t know what to wear, I would go to their closet and borrow their shirts or pants. My twin brother and younger brother are not that much bigger than me, so their clothes would fit me well. I loved the look of loose pants tied around my waist. That’s where the phrase comes from, it’s quite literally borrowed from the boys.
You’ve mentioned that you have an intuitive understanding of silhouettes and proportions. How does that inform your design process, and what do you look for when searching for the perfect balance between masculinity and femininity?
When it comes to my design process, I tend to focus on keeping the cuts simple yet perfectly executed. I believe that simplicity in design allows the clothing to showcase the balance between masculinity and femininity more effectively. I look for a harmonious balance between the two, as I believe that even an outfit that features a turtleneck and baggy denim can be just as sexy as a revealing outfit.
For example, if I design a collection for ALFIE featuring a small, sexy top, I balance it out with a looser and more relaxed bottom. Ultimately, it’s all about finding the right balance between different elements of an outfit in order to achieve a cohesive and visually appealing look.
Each piece is numbered and unique, produced in limited quantities based on the amount of available fabric. Can you tell us more about that with the practical considerations of running a fashion label?
Each piece we create is numbered because we only use deadstock fabrics. Once a particular fabric is sold out, we can’t reorder it because we don’t know the supplier. Deadstock fabric is leftover fabric that a brand has ordered for themselves but hasn’t used all of it. So we buy the rest of the fabric from them.
While this approach limits us in terms of design, as we can’t create our own fabrics, it is also inspiring because we often find unique and unexpected fabrics that we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. It’s a beautiful process that leads to limited production quantities, as we can only use the amount of available fabric. This approach also allows us to reduce waste by using existing fabric instead of producing new material. However, it can be challenging at times to find the right fabrics to fit our vision, especially since we have to work with what is available.
Let’s talk about your SS23 collection, “The Effortless Feminine.” What can you tell us about it?
There’s a lot to share. The collection is launching on Monday, and this time we’ve taken the “borrowed from the boys” concept even further. We collaborated with a renowned company, Thomas Mason, known for stock services and supplying cotton for men’s shirts and suits for ages. They’re UK-based, but owned by Albini, an Italian company. Thomas Mason has the most exquisite fabrics in the world. In Paris, there are small shops for men where you can choose your fabric, and they will make a custom shirt for you.
For our collection, we selected these fabrics and transformed them into women’s clothing. So it’s truly “borrowed from the boys” this time. We’ve incorporated plain colors and stripes, as we collaborated with these specialized cotton suppliers. There are a few new pieces in this collection, with four of them being particularly memorable.
I believe this collection is the most feminine one I’ve created so far. It’s very ’90s-inspired, with beautiful fabrics that are form-fitting and accentuate femininity. The launch is happening on Monday, so you’ll see it soon.
Your label is still relatively new as well. What have been some of the biggest challenges and rewards of starting your own fashion brand?
I think the biggest challenge is really finding a production partner that you can trust. Even if you trust them and they do amazing work, the main part of the job when launching a collection is making sure every single detail you have in your mind is represented in the clothes. So, the biggest challenge is to find someone you trust who will make the clothes the way you want them to be.
The biggest reward is seeing random people, who I’ve never met, wearing my designs. I know when influencers receive gifted items or borrow pieces for events, but when it’s just an order that comes in and I don’t know the name, it’s not even a friend of a friend, that’s the most rewarding.
Thus far, celebrities like Iris Law and Savannah Hudson have been spotted wearing your pieces. How exciting has that been for you?
It’s been absolutely thrilling. It’s a truly proud moment when I see these girls, who likely have numerous brands reaching out to them, choose to wear my designs on a particular day. It’s incredibly rewarding. The impact is also significant because having these style-conscious celebrities wear your pieces is one of the best ways to gain recognition outside of your own country. It feels much more genuine than paid advertising online or similar methods, as you can see that they actually chose to wear the clothing themselves.
Finally, what would you say is the defining characteristic of the brand, and how have you worked to create a unique visual identity that aligns with your own artistic sensibilities?
I really want to emphasize the luxury experience that seems to be fading due to the abundance of options online. From the beginning, my idea has been to avoid opening a store in major cities like Paris, London, or New York. Instead, I envision creating small private showrooms where people can book appointments, come in, and customize their own pieces using deadstock fabrics that I’ve found but don’t have enough of to create a full collection.
The focus is on offering a confidential, private, and genuinely beautiful brand experience. I don’t want the brand to be everywhere, but rather to cultivate a sense of exclusivity and personal connection.