My GF C. and I descended on Muriel Dombret's Toronto trunk show last week, riffling happily though her winter collection of boiled-wool jackets, fine wool and matte jersey skirts and tops, velvety-soft fine cord pants.
Then we found The Dress, a simple black column with a slight stand-up semi-bateau neckline, a nearly straight narrow body with shape added by two soft inverted pleats under the bust, and three-quarter sleeves. The fabric, a supple Italian rayon-poly blend, mimics fine wool but is washable.
I zipped on the size 14, and had that sense of 'rightness' when a dress fits and flatters. I looked rather "Mad Men" (Joanie, not Betty): my ample curves settled down and behaved. I wouldn't say I looked thin, but the dress made the noblest effort on my behalf.
C. tried The Dress in a size 8. With her willowy frame, she became Breakfast at Tiffany's chic. The dress courted her. She looked born to wear it, smiling from a Town Car en route to cocktails at the King Cole Bar.
C. referred to The Dress as "strict", described in my post (11/08/08) about a European style category. That's right; Muriel is Belgian, and her designs reflect the quality, subtle detail and rigour of this aesthetic.
Then our friend J. showed up. She's about as wide as a credit card, and looks like Patti Smith. She wears spare, neutral, low key/downtown styles. We greeted her, both wearing The Dress, holding glasses of bubbly, and insisted she try the size 6 (a bit large but Muriel can make a smaller size.)
Magic once again, it lent J. a Left Bank insouciance, not messing with her highly individual presence, but adding edge to the background of her mix. If C. looked like Audrey Hepburn, J. looked like Juliette Greco, a boho goddess.
So, who bought The Dress?
J. didn't, because an upcoming New York wedding was on her mind; she chose a black boiled-wool soft jacket for everyday wear.
C. didn't, though she looked incredible- she thought she'd have limited occasions to wear it, and chose a black jacquard jacket with an interesting folded collar.
Yes! I bought The Dress, which Muriel will cut two inches longer for my height, so it hits just below the knee, a better length for me.
Muriel brings swatches of fine fabrics; you can order the pieces in various colours or weights, For example, the boiled wool jacket is available in three weights, ranging from the thickness of a fine sweater to outerwear.
The designs are adapted for your body, without extra cost, except postage. If you find something you love, and want a second colour, you can get it.
Prices are very reasonable for the quality, about $250-$375 for example, for a jacket or dress that will not go out of style, fall apart, or be worn by everyone you see (unless you all buy The Dress).
What would you call this business model? "Not-quite-couture?" Whatever it is, I'm a devoted customer.
Why don't more designers do this?