We love to sit down and discuss all things business, fashion, and wellness with the people who inspire us most. For this edition of “A conversation with,” we turned the idea on its head to have a chat with Ernest Leoty CEO and founder, Marion Rabate, to discover her inspirations behind the brand. Marion grew up between London and Paris, interested in a diverse range of topics that led to schooling and work in finance, art, and ultimately, her own athleisure brand, Ernest Leoty.
Q: To start, what are the inspirations behind the AW19 collection?
A: Our collections always focus on women as the central inspiration for our designs — understanding the way they move and the way they live is important to creating pieces they want to live their lives in. While our core pieces and styles are very feminine at heart, we also introduce architectural elements to create a sort of contrast. This is where the first inspiration, Natural Contrast, comes from, but incorporates elements of nature into it through the color palette and sharp color blocking.
For Bold Ballet, we knew our pieces are inherently feminine — just think of pieces like Isaure in a soft ballerina pink, or the Ilona in a sultry all-black — so we wanted to mix this up with bolder, even moodier colors.
It’s all about thinking about the modern woman, and the balance and contrast in her life, and how we can adapt our collection to accommodate that.
Q: Tell us about the design and development process — How do ideas turn into sketches, and how do sketches turn into reality?
A: After the inspiration for the collection is set, we begin working on a range plan. This means we’re deciding the number of pieces and colorways, and which pieces they will be. For example, 3 new leggings, 4 new bras, 3 new colorways, etc. Going hand in hand with the inspiration set for the season, I then chose the color palette. It normally starts with a central, strong color as a base, as well as a more muted one, and then 2 or 3 more colors surrounding those key ones that would be a good match.
I then divide the collection by capsule, and look at design references for each capsule. Sometimes that designs can also come from research, or pieces I love already — inspiration can come from an amazing piece of ready-to-wear that I want to reimagine as activewear.
Finally, we work with amazing pattern makers, and have a great in-house team for product development. The general public knows a lot about design, but product development is a really important process that you need a great, dedicated team for.
Q: How do you find the perfect fit? How many fittings does it take, and what is the process like?
A: It depends on the product. Our first season, we had to get our “blocks” right, which meant doing up to 5 fittings per product to make sure the fit was perfect. Now, some of our new shapes are based off of these existing shapes (for example, the shape of a legging might be very similar with small changes), which means we’re able to do less fittings and less rounds of prototyping, because we know it’s based on a fit that works. We also do our fittings on different sized models, and constantly refit older pieces to see where we might want to improve at all.
Q: How many pieces are designed that don’t make the cut?
A: We changed our way of designing throughout the collections. It’s a learning process. In the beginning, there was a lot of exploration. We would explore up to 40 sketches and then cut it down to 15 at the end. Now that my team and I have more experience, the process can be more organic. I tend to start with a sketch and then it evolves into something else, but the original sketch is still the basis for the final design. I also now better understand what works and what doesn’t. During a season, I might already have ideas for the next season — I’m constantly thinking about what’s next and what we can develop.
Q: What are your couture inspirations and brands that you look up to?
A: I take inspiration from a few brands — a common factor is that they all have a signature, consistent style. A top pick would be Celine, old collections, as well as the new AW19 collection by Hedi Slimane. I read his interview in French Vogue, and he’s an incredibly smart, intellectual man. It made me really appreciate the new collection. I also love and am inspired by brands like The Row, Khaite NY, and Hermes. I really look for simplicity, quality, and craftsmanship — design classics that will still be relevant in 20 years.
Q: What do you think makes your designs different?
A: I think the key difference comes from that fact that whilst we’re an activewear brand, we do not just think about activewear, but ready-to-wear. Our designs are simple and wearable, and truly something that fits into a woman’s life seamlessly, no matter where she’s from, no matter what she does. My inspiration from the brands I mentioned before plays into our collection, in the sense that these pieces are timeless in a world led by trends.
To hear more from Marion, head to our IGTV in a Q&A she hosted with Jamila from Gazelli House about being a woman in fashion and business.