When DIY Style Meets Highbrow Paris Fashion
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Her clothes are meant for the woman who asks for a raise while wearing them — having made them herself.
By Elizabeth Walsh
“I’m not like a Parisian girl,” says Lisa Gachet, smiling in her jungle-green, leaf-patterned dress, as the hum of traffic wafts through open windows. “I like food,” explains the Bordeaux native who even stocks pastries in her boutique. “The girl with the red lipstick and the dirty hair, it’s completely not me. I love to be too much.”
Gachet is the woman behind Make My Lemonade, a French brand that has leaped from a blog launched in 2012 to a line of do-it-yourself fashion. Last year, she opened a boutique along Paris’ Canal St.-Martin, home to hipsters, expensive coffee and street art. Now, Gachet has a pop-up in the Left Bank’s most iconic department store: Le Bon Marché. But the 30-year-old designer isn’t out to become just a fixture of Parisian fashion; she wants to change the industry.
“You can say so many things with clothes, and it’s never going to change,” she says excitedly. “But when we speak about DIY, for me, the most important word is ‘do.’ I want to give the tools and confidence to people to make their own story.”
Gachet’s version of DIY feels more like a feminist enterprise than a Pinterest hobby. Her clothes are meant for the woman who asks for a raise while wearing them — having made them herself.
It’s hard not to believe that you can make your own dress or blouse when even the scissors are for sale.
Growing up, the designer felt she was “not enough something,” that she had “too much hips or not enough boobs.” She rejects Photoshop and rarely uses models, preferring ordinary women with whom she feels a personal connection, a synergy. It’s easier, she says, to design clothes “on a real body than on a super-skinny model.”
The industry — which Gachet says is “disconnected from reality” — still rewards thin, blond, white models, who attract more clicks and profit than Black models do. “It makes me so sad to see those numbers [about consumer clicks], but we keep going and I don’t want to stop because of that,” Gachet says. That’s not an easy choice to make when Make My Lemonade has yet to become profitable and competes with the industry’s top designers along the Canal and now at Le Bon Marché.
Still, the brand features women of varied body shapes, sizes and ethnicities. Unlike brands that differentiate between “normal” and “plus size,” Gachet makes no such distinction, embracing her non-models’ diversity to show off Make My Lemonade’s versatility.
Gachet’s boutique itself ignores norms: It clashes cheerfully with a city that is often gray — its bright pink and yellow tiles spilling onto an otherwise dull sidewalk. It’s a foil to the colorless minimalism of stores like The Kooples around the corner. Within its crimson walls, Make My Lemonade is awash in Persian carpets, floral lamps and wallpaper, all of which elicit a warmth and a curiosity far more satisfying than surreptitiously examining price tags of clothes that few are meant to touch.
Beyond the ready-to-wear are sewing patterns and fabrics adorned with patterns of lemons, cherries, seashells and eyelashes. It’s hard not to believe that you can make your own dress or blouse when even the scissors are for sale. There’s even a pink and yellow café beyond the sales rack that serves coffee, pastries and more. Naturally, recipes can be found online.
It’s hard not to wonder whether Make My Lemonade is, like Gachet, too much. Some in the fashion industry balk at the idea of decadent pastries being sold next to the dressing room. But Aaron Keller, co-author of The Physics of Brand, says “the challenge with fashion is that it doesn’t have a lot of depth and doesn’t stay around that long. The fashion industry has the legacy of designers, but in [Gachet’s] case, she’s building more than a fashion brand. It’s tapping into the craft movement. It’s tapping into the female entrepreneurship movement.”
Gachet is set on having it all. And “all” isn’t just sewing patterns and vegan cheesecake — it’s also the spacious, peach-hued workshop where I met with the designer and where Make My Lemonade hosts classes on everything from sneaker embroidery to pressing flowers and calligraphy. Gachet, who attended Paris’ École Duperré before working as a studio assistant for Yves Saint Laurent and as an art director at Bonpoint, doesn’t plan to stop there — she wants to teach entrepreneurship too.
If her imagination seems limitless, that’s in part thanks to her father, whom, Gachet says, “raised me like a boy.” The retired athletics instructor helps around the boutique as a handyman and taught his daughter woodworking and how to install shelves. He also taught her to be unafraid of demanding answers — a necessary skill for an entrepreneur.
Still, Gachet is a far cry from the imperious boss in The Devil Wears Prada. The owner of Make My Lemonade speaks in “we,” not “I,” and emphasizes that she’s “not the only one behind it.”
Simoné Eusebio, the brand’s director and head of communications, echoes that sentiment. The community that helped Make My Lemonade evolve from a blog to a fashion line, he says, is still at the heart of its mission. “We pose a lot of questions to our community,” he says — the company has some 250,000 followers on Instagram. “We ask them through an Instagram story: Do you prefer this [dress] in blue or in red? And in, like, two hours we have a response and we’re like, ‘OK! We’re going with blue!’”
That community input is also welcomed offline. If in-store customers have an idea, team members — who work in an office adjacent to the workshop — listen.
“I’m so in love of fashion and the patterns, the fabrics. For me, it’s the eighth art, you know what I mean?” says Gachet, alluding to the seven classical forms of art, of which fashion is not one. “If we can write a little piece of history, it can be great, and I really think the revolution can start from us.”
OZY’s 5 Questions With Lisa Gachet
- What’s the last book you read? L’Amie Prodigieuse (My Brilliant Friend), by Elena Ferrante.
- What do you worry about? Climate change! I’m worried that the government is not going to take real action.
- What’s the one thing you can’t live without? Love.
- Who’s your hero? My best friend.
- What’s one item on your bucket list? To have a family.
Read more: Designer Reet Aus is behind the next big thing in fashion — scraps.
- Elizabeth Walsh, OZY AuthorContact Elizabeth Walsh