Husband and wife team, Erwan and Florence, have brought together their mutual love of ecologically-sound business, textiles, fashion and Vietnam for a brand that brings to life the vitality and artistry of a beautiful Asian culture.
Both from the south of France, meeting in Vietnam, it seems like fate had a plan for these two, sharing compatible interests, education and passions. Read on to find out why Metiseko is a brand close to our hearts, as well as theirs.
1. Erwan and Florence, from your studies in Paris, what brought each of you to Vietnam? Where are each of you originally from?
I’m originally from the south of France. After my textile design studies in Paris, I went to the USA where I started to work as a freelance textile designer. I had been very inspired by the hectic lifestyle of big cities such as New York. But after this experience, I was looking for a more spiritual and authentic destination. Through books and movies, I was attracted to Asia, where tradition and spiritual culture always fascinated me. I first planned to go to Japan but at the last minute I change my mind to go to Vietnam. I can say, this choice has changed my life forever. A trip that was first supposed to last 10 days became a decisive meeting with my designs and myself.
I am from the south of France from Aix en Provence. I studied at 3A Business and Development school in Lyon. It is a school where you learn to build development projects and work in emergency NGO projects in developing countries (3A stands for Asia, Africa, South America). In the final year of my studies all students were asked to create an ethical project, and I choose at that time to create Metiseko. With the business plan in hand, we arrived in Vietnam with Florence and were able to find one business investor.
I am half Vietnamese and half French, before and during my studies, I worked in Vietnam in different fair-trade projects all linked to textiles. During an internship in Ho Chi Minh city, I met Florence who is my wife and mother of our 2 children. We knew when we met that we could create great things together by complementing our savoir-faire. I had an idea to create an ethical brand made from well-thought-out products and high-end quality materials. When Florence came into my life, I found her work fascinating and of great talent, which is why we decided to create Metiseko together in our beloved Vietnam.
2.Florence, what drew you to the design of clothing and textiles for your career?
When I studied Art in Paris, I was very interested in developing my own creativity in textiles. It enabled me to combine all the different media I could have learned about during my previous studies: screen printing, painting, drawing, photography, gravure…
When I started to work as a freelance textile designer, I specialized in home decor textile design developing prints with big scale.
For Metiseko, we wanted a global concept starting from the stories of prints and color. The product was supposed to come after to enhance the print and highlight a universe, a story.
There was originally a good balance between home decor products and fashion.
But then, the brand turned more into a fashion brand when we started to print on silk. When I step back, I see that some of the prints were very similar to what I used to design for homeware; it was and interesting match, to combine both aspects.
3. When did the two of you first conceive Metiseko, and how?
When we met in Saigon 8 years ago. It was a decisive meeting in both a personal and professional way. He had at the time the will to create an ethical textile brand and I was working as a textile designer. We decided to match our skills to create a brand that can have both creativity and ethics.
As he’s half Vietnamese and half French, we wanted to start from his own story. In French “Metis” refers to someone who is a mix between 2 cultures and “Eko” refers to ecology. We believe that being environmentally friendly and chic at the same time fits our values.
We chose Hoi An in Central Vietnam as the place to work and live. Hoi An is one of the most well-preserved and authentic cultural sites of Vietnam. Everything about Hoi An made sense to us as the place to establish Metiseko’s first boutique and production center.
4. Vietnam has such a rich, cultural history and so much to draw inspiration from, how do you choose what you’ll use in your work next?
My own source of inspiration in Vietnam is naturally quite subjective. In France, I was always scared to be out of ideas—it’s hard to know where ideas come from. In Vietnam, I’m very surprised to see how rich everyday small details are. I don’t have to look for inspiration as ideas come to me naturally. For example, the way people carry everything on their motorbikes, paint their walls with harmonious colors, the elegance of old people, the way people wrap fruits and flowers. And of course, I’m truly sensitive to the luxuriant vegetation and this unique tropical light.
In my work, I need to stay connected to the trends and to what happens in the fashion sector. I follow-up via the Internet and in the meantime I get my inspiration from my daily life and travels in Vietnam and Asia. It’s a mix between instinct and trend.
5.What drew you to exclusively using silk and organic cotton for your textiles?
We really wanted to start with strong and healthy values. The original concept was to use natural, organic and eco-friendly material for our designs with the willingness to produce the maximum locally. That’s why we chose the silk grown, woven, dyed and printed in Bao Lac in central Vietnam.
Concerning the organic cotton, there is no organic cotton in Vietnam. To find a certified GOTS producer, we needed to go to India. We import the cotton raw from South India and process the fabrics in Vietnam. Until now, we have chosen these 2 materials but we are still investigating on new fabrics that can provide a high-end surface of printing and still be sustainable.
6. When you’re designing, is your process different for jewelry than clothing? How so?
When I’m designing, I start from the very beginning, getting the inspiration from a color, a tale, a movie a travel or even a scent. I first try to create a universe, and then I start to draw and find new colors that can match with the story.
Working like this enables me to have a global vision of a collection and design the product range at the end of the creative process. I would say that the jewelry design comes at the end, when we’ve finalized the fashion collection.
It’s a nice part of our work, as the biggest part has been done and jewelry is supposed to add the last touch to the outfits to fulfill a look.
7. What is a typical day like for one, or both, of you working at Metiseko?
Working in Metiseko as the founder and creative director is not always easy. Both are very different and I need to find a good balance to save time for designing.
I would say that I’m sharing my time between the daily priorities of the company such as production issues, shop displays, administrative things and new ideas to develop. It’s a very different energy to have!
I never know what to answer to this question. I am now the general director of the brand but I am involved in every aspect of the company. I have multiple responsibilities and we do a bit of everything. I work very closely with the sales managers of Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh city, with my accounting, production and creative team managers. I am the person in charge of the Brand development, Finance, Marketing and Unsolved problems. I am the person who has eyes on every aspect of the company, which enables development while coordinating our different departments, outside suppliers, and contractors all while respecting deadlines.
8. What are you most proud of in terms of creating your brand?
Having created a team as a family and watching them grow up in the same time as the development of the brand. Being surrounded by employees who believed from the beginning in our brand, even when we had nothing. In the hard times, I think about them and it gives strength to my work.
We have great recognition from our customers and the sales are good. I am proud of the fact that we’ve been growing organically since 2011 with one store to start and without the financial help of other institutions/investors until now (except for capital investment).
We have both worked very hard and are looking back to our evolution with great pride. But what we are most proud of is the ambiance in our company. People rarely quit (we have more than 60 people now), we implemented a trade union, a tontine system, good working conditions and fair salaries, social and medical security for our employees and their families. You would need to come in our staff parties. It’s crazy !
9. What does personal style mean to you?
Florence: it’s hard to answer as we are very conditioned by the society and the environment. For sure we have in common a lot of inspirations, trends as we are living quite similar things. I would say that starting from a collective memory, trying to create something different at the right time!
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