Updated: Jul 24, 2020
Instance is a 100% Made in Italy label for women, that is luxurious, sustainable and ethical.
Maud, founder & designer at Instance, shares what INSTANCE stands for, the challenges she faces and how she names the pieces in the collection.
How was the idea for INSTANCE born, what inspired it?
I was at a crossroads, I had just finished my design degree and didn’t really know which way to go. I always had in mind that I would create a fashion line, but I needed to find an idea that would make my label different and recognizable.
"So I asked myself this question: what would YOU like to wear, but cannot find. The answer was: feminine garments that are timeless, elegant and versatile. I would like to wear pretty and luxurious fabrics on my skin. And I would like to know that I am buying something that is benefiting someone and isn’t harming the environment."
So I started writing down all these ideas and began sketching. The vision evolved with time as I understood more about the market, my capabilities and the fashion industry. But the main idea is still very much present.
For an ethical brand that stands for luxury at a fair price, what has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is to educate consumers that the price they are paying – although it might seem high – is in fact the real price of such a product. The margins of the brand aren’t very high and are in fact way below market average. But if you want to use Italian fabrics (even if mine are deadstock), manufacture everything in Italy where seamstresses have a decent pay and work in good conditions, employ a pattern maker in Milan who has experience and was trained in the best school…there is a price to pay. Of course, it can seem easier and more affordable to go to Zara’s and buy a bunch of clothes at a very low price point. But these clothes won’t last and will soon be damaged or out of fashion.
"Fashion made from materials that hurt the environment, and sewed by women working fifteen hours a day in terrible conditions, to earn a few cents per hour - This is not my idea of fashion."
What was your biggest fear or concern before you launched the label?
My biggest fear was that no one would buy and that I would have invested all that money for nothing. But thankfully that didn’t happen, and I was able to sell quite a few pieces rapidly.
"You have to start small and sell to people around you and slowly grow. This adventure certainly has taught me to be patient and steady."
Where do you look for inspiration?
I take inspiration from my own closet and people on the streets. I love looking at paintings, old fashion illustrations, movies. You could say my style is a bit “vintage” although I prefer to call it timeless. I look at what was done in the past and try to revamp it to be more contemporary. I love impressionist and pre-Raphaelite paintings and fashion from the first half of the 20th Century.
How are the pieces in the collection named? I have always found that so interesting.
The first round of blouses are named after my family. For eg Alexandrine is my favourite blouse so I named it after my Mom. Sophie is my Aunt, and so on. Then I developed the names based on people that I care about; Isabelle is someone who was very encouraging as I was setting up the brand.
"It's important that there is a match between the person it is named after and the design of the piece. Each piece has a story!"
How do you manage sizing to cater to a larger audience, especially with standard sizes becoming irrelevant?
The shapes of most of the styles are fluid and are not tight on the body. Infact, I often tuck my blouses and I like the volume and shape it creates. That also allows one blouse to fit several kinds of morphology. The sizes aren't rigid either. In the future I am trying to do pieces that are mostly constructed in that manner. I have been working with the same size grader for my collections and that has allowed her and me to understand each other. She gets my clothing style and the types of clients we have and over a period of time the sizes have evolved. I do made to measure, where once I develop a size, that
is added to the next collection.
"Creating sizes is a skill, but nobody really thinks about it like that."
For a brand that doesn't necessarily follow a fashion calendar, how do you create freshness for your clients?
It's against my principles to push mass consumption and renew a collection frantically. I design and produce in 'drops', one piece at a time. That basically means when they are ready at the artisanal workshops, they come out. It creates a novelty for the people who like the brand. It also helps them understand the work that happens behind the scenes, because I make sure to communicate and engage my audience with behind -the-scenes, and that adds value.
What is the biggest challenge for you now with the worldwide pandemic?
The biggest challenge for me right now is reaching consumers solely online. I had several pop-ups and events planned for the Spring, but they obviously had to be cancelled. It can also be a bit challenging to keep my audience interested and entertained and to reach new people. But I have been trying to be creative and I’ve been having fun!
What do you think is going to be the new normal for fashion going forward?
I truly hope the industry evolves and becomes more aware of the current challenges we are all facing today. I am truly happy to be working with people in Italy and have such a short circuit between the design and the final product.
"Everything literally happens in a 40-km radius, so I am not dependant on what happens on the other side of the world, and I think that will actually be something companies will start to re-think in the near future."
I hope people will become aware of the impact our behaviour can have on the environment and will shop consciously and mindfully. But I am quite pessimistic and doubt that such change will happen overnight.
What is your new normal going to be from a personal front?
Personally, my new normal won’t be that different from what it used to be in the past. I have a pretty sustainable lifestyle. I am a bit worried about the toll this pandemic might have on our liberties and how it might impact our lives in the long term.
What is this time teaching you?
That I am a really introverted person. I cannot say I have been suffering from the lockdown (thank goodness I do not know anyone who has been sick). I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family though!
I have been taking this time to do things I never have time to do otherwise. I have been painting, reading a lot, cooking recipes from the dozens of cookbooks I have but never have time to open, I have been practicing yoga almost everyday and finding control and balance in my body and mind. I am vegetarian but after this quarantine I am thinking about becoming fully plant-based, or at least partially.
Maud grew up in the French countryside, next to Metz. She launched Instance in late 2017. She loves drawing, cooking and most importantly travelling. Breakfasts and running are very important to her. She lived in Connecticut for 4 years before moving to Milan. Her most recently read book is “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir, which discusses the status of women throughout history and she calls it a 'must read'.
Maud lives with her fiance and adorable pug Nugget, who is actually her assistant in disguise.
Available at https://instance-officiel.com/