Each week, we look into an exciting and innovative label that is taking the fashion world by storm in our regular feature #TheBrand. This time we’re turning the spotlight on the Parisian activewear label with a difference, Ernest Leoty.
“Activewear is a relatively saturated market,” explains Marion Rabate, the CEO of Ernest Leoty, a sportswear brand that has taken influence from a 19th century Paris couture house of the same name, and kept to similar fashionable roots. “There are a lot of brands out there, but we were the first to think about it from a ready-to-wear perspective.”
Deciding to tackle the problem she saw in sportswear, that nothing felt feminine and minimal enough for her personal aesthetic, Rabate stepped out of her comfort zone and away from her experience in finance to launch a fashion brand, one which put style at the forefront of women’s sportswear.
“Style is at the centre of everything we do,” she says. “Of course, the products have to be technical and we work with the best sports factories in the world, but the decisions we make in terms of colours, cuts and seams are also driven by how the product looks.”
So, what is the aesthetic? “It’s pared back and minimal – we are inspired by brands including The Row, Bottega Veneta and Hermès – but at the same time, it’s very feminine and graceful, French chic.”
“My vision was to create products in which I would feel good myself. I wanted high waists to cover my stomach, I wanted to be pulled in at all the right places, but also to feel sexy and empowered. And of course, I wanted comfort above all, which is why we choose fabrics that are so soft. Our approach is very innovative – sportswear does not have to look like sportswear.”
The collections are filled with neutral colours, flattering cuts, pieces that are perfect for working out in, but that could easily be translated into your day-to-day wardrobe. And the designs have resonated with consumers across the globe, particularly recently.
With many of us being forced to spend more and more time at home, sales in loungewear have gone through the roof, while Rabate has also seen women investing in working out like never before.
“Lockdown means people are spending more time wearing loungewear, but this virus has also encouraged people to focus on their health – many people now see the point in investing in that area of their lives, so we have seen our business impacted by this, but also because people have more time to spend on Instagram, we have seen increased traffic there, where people are discovering the label.”
Instagram has actually always been key to Ernest Leoty's success, Rabate explains, particularly when it was just starting out and the team didn’t have enough capital to hire marketing or business-development agencies.
“I have always been a firm believer in digital first,” Rabate says. “For awareness, I always reach out to influencers first, this is because it’s how I buy myself – I buy a new brand I’ve never heard of before because I see it on someone whose style I admire. This is how Ernest Leoty became a truly global brand – 30 per cent of our sales come from the US, even though we have no presence there.”
Rabate’s knack for making the right business decisions stems from her past experience, which, unlike many fashion-brand founders, was not particularly creative.
“I started my career in finance, as an investor in fashion brands. That helped me to understand the strategy side of things. It really helped me to understand the numbers and how to build a sustainable business. This is very important because a lot of brands start, but few are able to stand the test of time.”
Rabate's plan for Ernest Leoty certainly looks to working out with the brand going from strength to strength – and certainly benefitting from the new fashion climate. Not only are the designs ideal for our current working-from-home situation, but Rabate says that the Ernest Leoty breed of sportswear is also perfect for a return to normal, as well as catering to the seasonless wardrobe we are all now striving to create.
“I think this sportswear lends itself to a very busy life, where you hop in and out of a plane, go to a yoga class, to a café and on to a meeting. And I think now that people have got used to this comfort, it will be difficult to go back.”
She might be right about that.
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