Fashion designer

How a fashion designer created Zebucq, a material made from coconut fiber

At first, Loetitia Razanamarie never really wanted to become a fashion designer – let alone start her own brand – but the pandemic changed her plans in the most incredible ways.

After intensive training at the Esmod Paris fashion school, this young Madagascan designer has achieved the feat of launching her first collection of handbags in Zebucq, a material that she herself developed, made from coconut tree.

A considerable feat at a time when all the biggest fashion houses seem to be embarking on the race in search of the materials of the future.

Fashion, the second most polluting industry in the world, is now forced to reinvent itself, rethink its production and turn to materials that are more respectful of the environment.

Read more: Renting Clothes May Not Be As Green As You Think, Study Finds

As a result, luxury brands are teaming up with start-ups or trying to develop their own innovative materials, such as Demetra from Gucci, Mylo from Bolt Threads or the perhaps better known Pinatex from Ananas Anam.

However, it is not these issues that prompted Razanamarie to embark on the manufacture of its own no less innovative material, Zebucq, but the desire to stand out, to offer something different, curious, unique. .

The fruit of a happy combination of circumstances, this adventure – which began in the midst of a pandemic – gave birth to the accessories brand Vazane by Lora & Zeboutin. It is a brand that certainly stands out from its competitors, but which may never have seen the light of day.

From Madagascar to Strasbourg

Razanamarie was born and raised in Madagascar, and in a way it was on her native island that her creative career began, albeit largely out of necessity.

“I come from Madagascar, which is a fairly poor country. Throughout our childhood, we dressed mostly in thrift stores or very poor quality products, so I started to have my clothes made, to go to parties or special events.

“I always wanted to stand out, to be original, so I did not copy what I saw in the catalogs, but I gave instructions to the seamstress according to my inspirations of the moment.”

And the results hit the mark.

Despite this success, Razanamarie never considered a career in the field, for the simple reason that no training in styling was available in Madagascar, and people generally need the means to juggle between styling and another. job to get by.

She therefore turned to studies in business administration, but took a sabbatical year after her diploma to learn to sew and explore this passion, even if it still seemed inaccessible to her.

The first turning point came in 2011, when Razanamarie moved to France for personal reasons – to Strasbourg, more precisely.

Her Malagasy diplomas were not recognized in France, so she spent five years working in mass distribution, as a self-service store employee, a profession that supported her, but which did not. really passionate.

Then came the pandemic

It was a wedding in Paris that made Razanamarie understand that her creative talents could put her on the path to bigger things. She chose to create her own outfit for the event and customize her shoes, which was once again a great success.

“I thought maybe there was something in there. And then other things happened in my personal life that made me realize that if I didn’t do something I might regret it. , and I didn’t want to end up doing a job that I didn’t necessarily like. It clicked, and I decided to give it a shot. “

A few unsuccessful online courses later, and Razanamarie decided to head to Paris for intensive training at Esmod, a renowned fashion school, where she specialized in accessories in order to broaden her skills as much as possible.

It was around this time, thanks to her sister’s Facebook page – who stayed in Sambava, a coastal town in Madagascar known for its coconut grove – that Razanamarie came across some handcrafted objects made from raw coconut fiber.

“I found that interesting,” says the designer who had the idea of ​​using this material in what would traditionally be leather goods or accessories.

Read more: Is the future of fashion on our plates? Step into the herbal sneakers

The idea germinated and developed until in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic – when successive blockages suddenly ended her second internship – the designer chose to take the plunge and launch her own Mark.

But it was far from a rash decision. The many months of confinement allowed Razanamarie to research and develop its new equipment – which it still refines today in its garage, now converted into a workshop.

And only Razanamarie holds the secret of this new material, made from coconut fiber. It also allowed him to learn the basics of leather goods such as bags, alongside a craftsman, if only to make his first prototype in Zebucq. Unsurprisingly, the prototype turned out to be a success.

Coconut fiber: a material of the future

If you haven’t heard of Zebucq yet, something tells us it’s only a matter of time. This new material, developed from coconut fiber from the town where Razanamarie grew up, is characterized by its very textured appearance, but also by the fact that it can only be worked by hand.

This requires knowledge, but above all skills, which the designer has managed to master on her own, with the help of her relatives and her husband.

“I have been asked why I am not automating production. This is simply because it is a material that has a multitude of subtleties depending on how it is worked. The more I use it, the more I discover new ways to achieve various textures and appearances ”, explains the creator of Vazane by Lora & Zeboutin.

“It’s a material that has a lot of potential, but it can only be done by hand. My bags are very resistant and last over time because I have adapted their design to the constraints of the material.”

Unlike many other “new” and “alternative” materials used to replace leather in the accessory world, Zebucq is really not like leather at all.

“At first I presented it as an alternative to leather, but in use, I noticed that there was nothing like it. It is really a material in its own right, just as we discovered that raffia and bamboo were [also] good for making bags.

“In the end, I just discovered an interesting material to use to ensure [traditionally] leather goods. It is a plant-based material in its own right. “

Original and authentic

The founder of Lora & Zeboutin wants to be honest with her clients that it is not the environmental and sustainable qualities of coir that led her to develop Zebucq.

Rather, it was something she had nurtured since her teenage years: the desire to stand out, to be original. But it’s also about standing out as a designer – something that’s anything but easy in 2021.

“I absolutely wanted to have something that would make me stand out. There are thousands of us coming out of fashion schools every year, and I wanted something that would make me see it.

“I also wanted to have something that reflects me, that stands out, and I was not guided by the vegetal aspect, but by the fact that I wanted to have a material which is colored, textured, and which arouse curiosity. “

However, this perspective does not prevent Razanamarie from seeing in these natural fibers the future of fashion, even if it does not call into question the materials traditionally used in leather goods or accessories, which have been the subject of criticism for some recent years. time.

“I think these materials are the future because we can see that they are taking on a growing role [in the industry]. Simply because people have started asking more questions about what they are wearing.

“I respect that a lot, but I think it’s not necessarily fair to demonize leather either, because it’s a material that can be put to good use. Everything has its place, as long as it is. do it correctly, and that we respect your own values. “

Transparency and authenticity are two essential values ​​for the designer.

“I don’t necessarily communicate about sustainability, although it’s important to me, but I want to be honest about what guides me in my designs. So I tell the story as it really is.

“A lot of people have told me that I should put more emphasis on these environmental qualities, but I don’t want to lie. For me, the most important thing is to be true to myself and transparent.”

Unique creations

If one thing is certain, it’s that Vazane by Lora & Zeboutin bags are bags like no other. In fact, no two are alike – and that’s the beauty of handcrafted products.

Loetitia tells us it takes her at least a week to craft her signature material, and then almost two weeks to create a handbag. In total, three weeks are needed to make these models, made using traditional techniques.

“I want to stand out as [accessories] brand that has an exclusive material and offers unique models. Because it is also the beauty of Zebucq, that we can have two bags of the same color, but which will never be identical. “

Currently, the bags are priced between € 320 (RM 1,600) and € 750 (RM 3,750). This kind of price is far from being accessible to the greatest number, but it is justified by an artisanal manufacture and by the fact that each model is unique.

Read more: Most fashion consumers want to buy sustainably, but need more information

“These are products made by hand in an exclusive material. For a product positioned at a price designed by a designer, it is very accessible”, explains Razanamarie.

Aware of the expense that this represents for many, the designer is working on a new range that can be designed faster and with less material. It will be available in three sizes, with a starting price set at € 180 (RM 900).

It is a product on which Loetitia will make very little margin, but which could help raise the notoriety of this new brand and of this exclusive material.

It is now up to the designer to refine and refine each of her models, to propose new options such as a shoulder strap for example, and to sublimate Zebucq – probably one of the only materials to have emerged “thanks to” and in the middle. of the pandemic. – AFP Relaxnews

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Hazel J. Edmonds

The author Hazel J. Edmonds

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