Anne Willi dresses women from Paris to New York. The Franco-Swiss fashion designer already has two boutiques in France, and opened her second New York store in Williamsburg in March.
France-Amérique: You have two spaces in Paris – one in the Bastille neighborhood, and another in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. What made you decide to expand your activity to the United States?
Anne Willi: Many of my customers in Paris were American tourists. One of them, a French artist living in New York, put me in contact with the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn, where I was able to open a six-month pop-up store in 2013. Before I launched the project, I went to the gallery to observe the women walking by and think about which ones I would like to dress. I was unable to find the right clientele in Manhattan, and so Brooklyn seemed to be the best place to open a store. The Boerum Hill neighborhood, where I opened my first boutique in 2015, is a lot like the Odéon neighborhood in Paris. It is quite chic, popular with families, and offers a certain standard of living, while my clientele in Williamsburg is younger and more international – a lot like in the Bastille area!
Have you changed your collections for the U.S. market?
Hardly! The more extreme temperatures in New York have led me to work with warmer fabrics in the winter and lighter ones in the summer. I also started designing shorts because there is a demand for this sort of clothing in New York. American women are not scared of showing their legs; there is less judgement and people are more daring in the United States. However, I sell more backless pieces in France, where women are more comfortable going out without a bra. People show different parts of their bodies in both countries.
Your pieces go for between 100 and 500 dollars each and are made exclusively in Europe. Is there a demand for this price range and quality in New York?
There is not much ready-to-wear fashion at mid-range prices in the United States. The general offer ranges from sportswear to big brands such as H&M and Zara, and then jumps straight to very expensive designer pieces from labels such as Marc Jacobs. Few brands combine quality and creativity at affordable prices, which is why I’m here!
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