Why the founder of Hong Kong’s Rue Madame fashion boutique decided to go it alone
After seven years of championing French designs in Hong Kong, former investment banker Ariane Zagury has launched her own label she says offers customers wardrobe versatility at bargain prices
In 2010 former investment banker Ariane Zagury launched a multi-brand boutique in Hong Kong called Rue Madame, bringing affordable, luxurious French labels to the city for the first time. Twenty stores later and she is launching her first fashion brand, Clémence by Rue Madame, which recently opened its first outlet in Taikoo Shing.
The launch comes at a time when the affordable luxe category is crowded to the point of over-saturation. Brand loyalty has wilted as customers jump from one label to the next. Why, then, would she launch a new brand?
“Whenever I have a new brand or launch, it’s because I believe I can bring something different to the market,” she says. “Over the years I have realised that affordable luxury isn’t as affordable any more. As such there is a space for a very reasonable offer, that is well made with attention to the latest trends but also exclusivity. Limited collections are becoming important to the client. It needs to be a product you won’t find on anyone else.”
Clémence isn’t necessarily about wardrobe essentials, or finding the perfect trend piece (although they are still well represented in each collection). Instead, versatility is the aim, with pieces designed to mix easily in any wardrobe. Rather than hire an in-house designer, Zagury works with consultants in Italy and France to design collections.
“We don’t have seasonal inspirations – it’s based on the gut. We work with design consultants because we can be flexible and use the best experts for specific products or categories. And since we drop collections throughout the year we can work quickly. From concept to production it can take around two to three months, which is a definite advantage,” Zagury says.
Priced between HK$700 and HK$2,000, Clémence’s first collection is playful and fun. Slouchy cardigans and jumpers are paired with boho floral dresses. A sporty vibe can be seen in pieces such as an oversized off-the-shoulder down jacket. Classic shirts come with floral embroideries on the sleeves, while a leopard-print blazer is in black and white. Fashion’s current obsession with chic activewear is evident in the striped tops, culottes and track pants.
“I don’t like fashion to dictate rules to people. This brand is for someone like me, a fashion schizophrenic,” Zagury says. “One day she wants to look like a party girl, and the following day bohemian, then a corporate girl. When I moved to Hong Kong 10 years ago, women were much more chic and elegant. Now my client is more relaxed, they dress up on some occasions, and not on others. Clémence is multifaceted to meet this,” she says.
The Clémence store will feature limited releases every week, but once an item is sold out, it won’t be restocked. To keep customers happy, the new boutique will also feature Rue Madame’s popular in-house collection of cashmere and other basics, including coats. Looking ahead, Zagury may consider launching bags and jewellery.
“It’s still in a soft launch, test phase. We really need to nurture the brand. This one is my baby, so I just want to take it slow. The trend in fashion now is to take it slower and do it right,” she says.