When you close your eyes and imagine the quintessential, ridiculously-sexy-yet-subtly-enough-to-be-mysterious French woman, undoubtedly a picture of Laura Sfez should come to mind. Trust us—even if you’ve never seen before, she’s it. A banged, bombshell brunette, often clad in not much else but a simple trench coat and black lace-top thigh highs with a suggestive smoke hanging from her lips, she’s certainly got the je ne sais quoi.
Raised between Paris and Los Angeles surely helped carve her into the intriguing creature she is today, inheriting artistic influence and romanticism from her motherland, while also adopting a more rebellious, playful nature in the West. Kind of like if you mixed the cold chicness of Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour with the tongue-wagging allure of Nabokov’s Lolita—only not blonde. These days that cultural mélange is more evident than ever, with Laura at the height of her creative career, regularly designing, filming, and shooting all her own collections.
Her clothing line L’ecole Des Femmes (The School Of Women) produces simple, elegant pieces which she insists are “made for photography”—like collared black and white schoolgirl dresses, or a silk kimono suit which flatters beyond belief. And a trip to Laura’s site or Instagram are all the proof you need, where sultry shoots and tastefully lusty selfies bear the fruit of her creations; with hoards of loyal fans pledging their adoration for her in the comments beneath, no less.
Poised to find out more about this alluring Femme Fatale, we picked Sfez’s brain about her creative influences, the necessary basics in any sexy woman’s wardrobe, and her thoughts on the power of Instagram…
Let’s start from the beginning—you’re Parisian but were raised between there and Los Angeles. I find that really interesting because I myself was born in the South of France but grew up in New York, and it’s played a huge role in shaping who I am today. Could you tell us a bit more about that childhood background and how that juxtaposition helped define you?
Ahhh so you can appreciate the bicultural aspect. That is very cool! And yes, we were four kids, I the second, raised between the two continents. We moved every two-three years. The Parisian culture offered a lot of artistic influences that I may not even be aware of. We are exposed to nudity in a casual manner there at every age, and very adult themes. The Parisian state of mind is all at once open as it is oppressed. Being ridiculed is of haute punishment in France, so it can make some reluctant to speak so loud even though we are taught revolution.
American culture on the other hand gave me a greater sense of rebellion. I didn’t like how people talked and how I could never really tell how deep their feelings were. The French revolt was very awake for me in America, always. I am in love with American history and films and music. These all influence me greatly. I feel that cinema best represents fashion, and when you combine French ensembles and the lens, you have yourself a pretty movie.
It’s apparent within minutes of skimming your Instagram that you’re an extremely multi-faceted woman—in general terms, but also more specifically in the creative realm. Aside from the clothing company, you’re extremely immersed in photography and film. Was this always the path you’d envisioned for yourself, or did you imagine a different life or career for yourself as a young girl?
That is a very kind compliment. The clothes are made for photography. I can only make what I would want to photograph. I want to play in the clothes; it is their greatest asset. If I didn’t have photography, I wouldn’t design with such passion—the two are married to produce a universe.
I really never saw myself capable of very much to be honest, but as I picked up the camera, I became addicted, and as I got in front of the lens, I came to life. Now I want to take things into the direction of books, prints, art shows, and more books. I have been making love to dresses and photos for years, now I want to focus on my greatest love of all; words.
What/who were your earliest creative influences?
Madonna, my mother, Roald Dahl, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Serge Gainsbourg, Woody Allen, Abraham Lincoln…
There’s something about your voice that’s so strong—it’s very much reminiscent of the ideal Femme Fatale persona. Like a woman who’s been through some hard times and is tired of taking anyone’s shit, especially a mans. And I’ve noticed that in a lot of your posts, you’ll reference a misogynist ex (real, symbolic, or otherwise), someone who tried to repress and put you down for years under a pretense of false love. Could you delve a bit more into that? The transition of breaking free from something so suffocating, and finding yourself in the process.
Yes, abusers must be denounced publicly. It is a duty for women who have been severely oppressed and abused to point the finger and rise. Your silence will win no one. I spent a great deal of time with someone’s foot on my neck and then removing it. I happen to have a microphone with this tool—Instagram—and I feel that people use it for the stupidest shit. You are given this mic, right? And it speaks to everyone who has a smart phone—what are you gonna do with it? That was then. I will always gladly speak on that subject as it can be a heavy and shameful one and I like the adversity. Public therapy has proven very healthy for me. If anyone says he has dated me, run. They have all been monsters.
Onto L’ecole Des Femmes. First of all, I adore the name. In my opinion, your pieces truly embody the classic, mysteriously alluring essence of French women. There’s a simple subtleness to the entire range that, rather than distracting you from the woman wearing it, highlight her natural sexiness. There’s nothing fussy or overly thought-out about it, which is often the case with women’s fashion. How long have you been designing clothing, when did you start the company, and how did you come to perfect that French aesthetic?
Thank you so much! I began graphic design at 18 and started L’ecole Des Femmes when I was 25; I made a 23-piece collection and shopped it around downtown and landed a showroom and was booming in business instantly. Then things took a dive and I opened my store much later in 2011. I think I was very fortunate in my decision making process for this line as I instinctively figured that a classic approach would be the best. I wanted everything that was classic but that was always somehow tailored for much older and boxy women. I made everything I wanted in the sort of fit that I always wanted. I began my first collection with suspender skirts, pencil skirts, Peter-Pan-collar white button-ups, and a few Audrey Hepburn-esque dresses. You can’t go wrong with classic. Life is what will naturally give it the edge it needs. Some of the most grim characters in cinema were dressed in sheer elegant classic.
Photos: Laura Sfez