Founder and designer of lingerie and ready-to-wear brand Fleur du Mal, Jennifer Zuccarini, is also the former design director of Victoria’s Secret and the co-founder of Kiki de Montparnasse. She launched Fleur du Mal in 2012 and her collection has since been selling at top retailers, including Barneys, Neiman Marcus, Kirna Zabete and Shopbop. We spoke to the entrepreneurial designer about her background and love of intimates.
theFashionSpot: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Did you always know you wanted to work in fashion?
Jennifer Zuccarini: I was drawn to fashion for as long as I can remember. My mother had pretty eccentric tastes in clothing and it was always important to her that we were fashionably dressed. She let me wear whatever I wanted, even if it was occasionally inappropriate. I started sketching when I was eight or nine and taking sewing lessons, but I went in and out of wanting to be a designer. I also thought about becoming an art dealer and studied art history and fine arts in Montreal. I grew up in Toronto and finally moved to New York to study fashion design at FIT.
tFS: What have you always found appealing about designing lingerie?
JZ: I found really expensive lingerie thrilling when I was 19 or 20, the thought of a $100 pair of panties seemed like the most decadent thing — I have no idea why I liked that. I never thought about designing lingerie until much later. I just fell into it.
tFS: How did Kiki de Montparnasse come about?
JZ: We had an idea to create a luxury brand surrounding intimacy — making the experience of buying something to enhance your intimate life as special as say, buying a Chanel handbag.
tFS: How did your experience at Kiki de Montparnasse compare to Victoria’s Secret?
JZ: Kiki was a small, luxury brand, a startup really, and Victoria’s Secret is a $6 billion machine. I enjoyed both experiences for different reasons. It’s very satisfying to create something from scratch, to see ideas come to fruition and impact every step along the way. At Victoria’s Secret, I had the opportunity to travel all over the world and have the support of a much larger team. You spend a lot more time in meetings because every decision you make has a greater impact.
tFS: Anything that you think would surprise people about Victoria’s Secret?
JZ: I think people might be surprised that it is run almost exclusively by women.
tFS: The two brands have such totally different markets, was it hard to adjust designing for different price points?
JZ: Well, my heart is with luxury. I love beautiful fabrics and that’s always the challenge with lower price points. I did a few things at VS in the beginning that didn’t make sense for their customer. For example, I love silk and pushed to get more silk in the collection, only to find out the customer preferred polyester. Go figure! I had a hard time with that one.
tFS: At what point did the idea for Fleur du Mal come about? Can you explain the name?
JZ: There was never a moment that I didn’t think about creating a brand. I didn’t have a name for the longest time, but I knew that the collection would embody my favorite moments of dressing up to go somewhere fun (and maybe stirring up some mischief), and undressing, inspiring desire. I discovered the name when I was traveling in Argentina. I came across the infamous collection of poems by Baudelaire and the name immediately resonated with me. Baudelaire was a decadent and tormented artist, a true dandy, who spent everything he had on clothing, opium and women — he was the perfect muse.
tFS: You now also design RTW — are you inspired by lingerie for it?
JZ: Yes, but not exclusively. We definitely share fabrics between the collections and we like to create pieces that highlight lingerie, but Fleur du Mal is a point of view that I see parlaying into any category from RTW to beauty and accessories.
tFS: What keeps you excited to work in the fashion industry?
JZ: I love starting something new and you get to do that for infinity in fashion. I get super excited thinking about what the new inspiration will be for the season — it might be from a film, a book, an image I see somewhere or a moment in time.
tFS: What’s one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you started your brand?
JZ: Building a brand takes time. When I started, I wanted everything to happen right away, so I guess it would have to be patience!