It’s an exciting and very busy time for Christelle Traoré right now— as the founder and designer of Zo-Landing, a sassy new accessories line from Paris, Christelle’s got her hands quite full, to say the least. Zo-Landing, a raw but beautiful, a rugged yet romantic line of male and female jewelry is generating rave reviews from the fashion elite in Paris and all over Europe. With that certain je ne sais qua, Christelle Traoré is here to tell Fashion Spotlight her plans for taking over your closet with Zo-Landing, one of the most unique accessory lines to date.
Fashion Spotlight: How and when did you first start designing?
Christelle Traoré: My first real professional design project was the jewelry collection I designed for Zo-Landing. But in fact, I started designing since my childhood and I could say that design has accompanied all stages of my life; as a child I dressed my dolls with my special creations. And as a teenager, I realized that the uniform I had to wear for school was a challenge to my imagination, so I always found a way to make it different by customizing it. Today, design is the way I found my place as a creative woman in the business world.
FS: What is it like to design and run your own fashion business especially in Paris, the fashion capital?
CT: Starting my fashion business in Paris was obvious for me because I grew up here. But things aren’t so easy— there are so many designers fighting to exist here that being a Parisian woman is not enough. And even though Paris has a very strong connection to the fashion world (other designers, buyers, customers, magazines, fashion leaders, muses…) there is a risk of being locked in this bubble. This is why I decided to implant Zo-Landing in another European city besides Paris. As I found boutiques to sell my collection through out Paris, I also expanded my connections by selling my jewelry in Berlin.
Being the Parisian woman that I am, the Zo-Landing collection will always have that certain style and that “Made in Paris” flare about it. Still, I needed to break out of that mold and experience other big cities. For now, Paris-Berlin seems to be a very rich dialogue.
FS: How is this challenging economy affecting you as a designer and business owner?
CT: My business is young and quite small. So I’m not very affected by this crisis. As a one year old business, I’m still growing and a lot of aspects are still in development. Maybe the growth is a bit slower than it could have been due to the economy. But the Zo-Landing brand has high potential and I am definitely up for the challenge. As a native, I also try to take responsibility and work with talented local French “artisans” to help the economy here.
FS: How did you establish your brand and choose the name Zo-Landing?
CT: I was thinking about this project forever and one day I just decided that I was ready, it was time. Zo-Landing has no lexical meaning but it is an evocation; it’s a kind of oxymoron: feminine and masculine, sensual and rugged, animality and cosmopolitanism.
FS: Your designs are made from a variety of quality leathers: where do you get your materials from and why did you choose them?
CT: I chose to work with rare and high quality leathers for the nearly fetish pleasure they provide. I needed to concentrate on this material as the basis of the brand identity.
Because of their high quality, large variety and the infinite possibility of treatment, rare leathers as crocodile leather, carp leather, python, shagreen… are marvelous.
FS: Do you ever run into any problems with animal rights groups such as PETA because of the type of materials you use for your designs?
CT: I don’t to use fur or leathers from warm-blooded animals, even cows that everybody wears without questioning. I only use leathers from cold-blooded animals who are also eaten for food. I’m also part of the CITES Washington convention that obliges to follow the animal treatment that guarantees no pain and no hunting. I don’t use leather from hunted animals to avoid the species extinction but the leathers come from farms that also raise them for food. Exactly like cows but with only cold-blooded animals as crocodile that come from New Guinean and Australian farms where they use them for food. I also use shagreen and carp fish that are fish leathers. So as you can imagine, I don’t have any problems with PETA or other animal defense groups because my work is ethical, well controled, and conventional (I sell with certificates). This also means that you’ll never find cow or other warm-blooded animals leathers used as materials by Zo-Landing
FS: What is your inspiration behind the three collections?
CT: The three collections are more like three points of view from the same collection: female point of view, male point of view and the point of view “for two.” For this collection, I was inspired by the leathers and precious metals. I was inspired by the sensual combination of these two materials trying to make each of them existing by themselves. I tried to reverse the values in putting the leather as the heart of the jewel, not just ornamentation. The reverse of values is also that I esthetically “injured” the beautiful material in chiseling the gold metal or sewing the leather lie scars.
FS: I absolutely love the necklaces with the bows in the Female Collection. What inspires you to design?
CT: Thank you! I’m very delighted. Well… I cannot say what inspired me to design that particular necklace but I can say how much it represents the Zo-Landing style. It’s something trivial that I tried to sublimate giving identity. The Zo-Landing identity is that the necklace concentrates on the leather as the jewel. The leather is either sewn or cut sharply. You can play with it like a fetish or wrap it around the neck like a real feminine / masculine bow tie. You even can wear it on your hips. It’s an inspiration for the person who wears it.
FS: What fashion trends do you see in Paris/Europe right now that hasn’t yet made its way to the USA?
CT: Zo-Landing of course!
FS: If you can collaborate with one designer, who would it be?
CT: I design jewels and accessories but I don’t propose my creations as classical jewelry but more as fashion accessories. So I would naturally work with a fashion designer as Vivienne Westwood, A.F. Vandevorst, Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga, Christian Lacroix…there’s too many to choose from. But I would also love to collaborate with furniture and home designers as well as with artists.
FS: Who do you admire?
CT: My boyfriend. He is an art gallerist. I’m very passionate about art and I know how much heart, commitment and intelligence you need to have in order to be a good gallerist.
Also Pierre Bergé for the extraordinary and strong bridge he built between the fashion and art worlds.
FS: What is your must-have accessory?
CT: A handbag. What ever the design or the gender I can’t go out without a handbag. I would feel lost! And I don’t like to put things in my pockets. I’m fascinated by the place it takes in the every day life. A handbag collection is coming soon at Zo-Landing.
FS: What trends in accessories do you predict for the future?
CT: I think accessories will take a bigger place in our wardrobes. Until the day they will supplant the clothing. In the future, people may wear handbags as clothes.
FS: What advice do you have for aspiring designers?
CT: Learn to manage the business aspect of things. This means that you should learn to correspond with your lawyers, businessmen and accountants. Make everything yours— it will make you more responsible and you will be able to learn more about your business and grow. But forget any artistic advice!
FS: What do you see in the future for your brand? Any upcoming collections? Do you plan to expand your brand beyond jewelry?
CT: Zo-Landing is jewelry and accessories brand. For the launch, I decided to focus on jewelry, which the identity of the line. I also plan to design small accessories like padlocks, door-keys or handbags that are an extension of the jewelry collection.
The next step is the handbag collection, in its own so keep an eye out for it!
FS: Zo-landing is available predominantly in Europe. When will your designs be available in the US?
CT: Through the Internet Zo-Landing collection is available worldwide. We ship orders to the US too. For the physical boutiques, we’re working on opening ones in the US and Japan, so it should happen soon.