BLANDINE LEGAIT & MARIE-LOUISE MOGENSEN
Blandine: French, 42, lives next to Toulouse. Marie-Louise: 40, Danish, based in Los Angeles. In 2012, these two friends combined their complementary skill sets to with the intent to create a brand that would blur the lines between lingerie and sportswear.
The result: Baserange, a mash up of traditional undergarments, sportswear and minimal clothing, where comfort and wellbeing come first and with simplicity and endurance at the core. The current collection is divided between loose styles and second skin pieces, worn close to the body and designed with movement in mind. The image: modernity and strength, through the silhouettes, radical imagery and a growing following of inspiring women.
I/O: You seem to draw a lot of inspiration from sports. Which ones are your personal favorites?
BL & M-LM: We both practice Yoga. Marie-Louise runs a lot, and Blandine loves her outdoor sports: skiing, hiking...
I/O: What are the core values of Baserange?
BL & M-LM: The most important thing for us is to be respectful of women, in every aspect of our work. We don’t cast models. We don’t edit photos. We show all types of women, of all ages. Respecting women is absolutely fundamental for us. Our clothes go in that direction as well, we don’t design things that alter the body. Our goal is to accompany women through their movements in everyday life, we want them to feel at ease and our clothes to feel comfortable. This mission is also carried through our image and our way of communicating. We don’t cheat when it comes to what women do and who they are. We don’t try to sell unrealistic expectations.
I/O: How do you get organised for work, with Blandine in Toulouse and Marie-Louise in Los Angeles?
BL & M-LM: Blandine, who is in charge of the commercial side, and her team that deals with shipping and stock, live in Toulouse. Marie-Louise, who is in charge of image and creative content, lives in Los Angeles. On top of that, our Danish designer lives in London, our Swedish graphic designer lives in Paris, and our shop is in Melbourne, Australia. This implies a lot of Skype meetings! But we do see each other almost every month. We travel a lot. To our places of production, in Portugal, the south of France, Turkey. To Japan, for the opening of our next shop, or to Paris.
I/O: Why did you choose to open the first Baserange stores in Melbourne and Tokyo?
BL & M-LM: We just went with opportunities. Our friend Karina Utomo offered to do it. Same for our friend Sachiko Yui, in Japan. They had already set up pop-up stores and tried out the products on the market. They loved the results, and offered to open up stores. We really want to open something in Los Angeles, too, but we need to find the right person to do it with.
I/O: Why do you think the world of lingerie is still attached to old codes, like lace and male fantasies?
BL & M-LM: That is exactly our point: to make lingerie for women. Lingerie women buy for themselves. There are a lot of brands that started doing the same. Things are changing! Comfort and respect of the body are starting to take their rightful place. The image of lingerie is changing as well, we’re starting to see other bodies, real bodies!
I/O: Which brings me to your casting choices, that are fairly unique. How do you choose the women who wear your collections?
BL & M-LM: It’s usually pretty organic. We find some people on Instagram, some through friends, or while we travel. Our casting choices reflect the conversations we want to have about the world we live in. Subjects that aren’t brought up enough. Themes that we find essential. Our criteria include choosing women who are active, autonomous, who look after themselves and move forwards. Because of that, these women are all very different, but they have stories to tell. For next season, our lookbook includes writer Dydine Umunyana who wrote a book about Rwanda and resilience. Marisa Hamamoto, a dancer who has lived with handicap and decided to open a dance school for the disabled. There’s also a musician, Huneycut.
Dydine Umunyana, Huneycut & Marisa Hamamoto.
Some women are suggested to us, like Liz, in our SS18 lookbook. She’s a fisherwoman from Florida that our photographer told us about. She goes out fishing every day for her kids. For this season, we also interviewed several women who work in our factory in Castres. For example, Regine Benathan, who is over 80 years old and is the only one to master some specific techniques and skills. We also photographed our production team, both in Castres and Porto. It’s important for us to show the people who make our products and give them visibility, because we want to be transparent, on the one hand, but we also want to bridge the divide between the image of the brand, and the people who make it, who work behind the scenes. Ideally, we’d like these two sides to go.
I/O: Let’s talk about production. Where is the collection made, and what types of textiles do you work with?
BL & M-LM: We work with natural, eco-friendly materials. This means our sportswear and seamless pieces are made of cotton, for instance. It feels soft and natural to the touch. For swimwear, we had to let go of natural fabrics because they don’t dry quickly enough, so we chose a recycled polyamide. The knitwear is produced in Castres, in the south of France, our underwear is made in Porto, Portugal, and our silk and sweatshirts are made in Odemis, Turkey. We’re very close to the factories we work with. They have taught us a lot about what’s possible, and what isn’t. They show us what they’ve been developing, new machines, or new processes for dyes, and we then work together to determine exactly what to buy. Sometimes, we come in with fabrics we really like and try to recreate similar things, with their help. It’s paramount for us that all of this be made with respect for the environment. It’s a constant challenge for our production to have the least impact possible on the environment.
I/O: How do you actively empower women?
BL & M-LM: We try to show different women, to show that there’s more than just one ideal mold. Our wish is for everyone to accept themselves for who they are, to have a good relationship with their body, their differences, with no distinction for gender, and without excluding men in our approach. Besides, we have started shooting men as well as women, because some of our pieces are completely unisex. We’re going to start a men’s collection as of next season.
I/O: How can you make underwear a tool for self-empowerment?
BL & M-LM: Underwear is, by definition, close to the body and the skin. It can really influence how we feel. If we feel good wearing it, we’ll probably going to be more relaxed. It’s important that underwear be made of fabric that’s both soft and resilient, for the body to be able to breathe while we wear it.
I/O: How would you define your communications strategy?
BL & M-LM: When it comes to Baserange, we are idealists. We don't really believe anymore in advertising. So we don't really want to communicate in a commercial way, we try to keep a very pure rhetoric, something inspirational, almost radical. For example, we don’t want to portray our brand ourselves, we prefer standing back and showing inspirational women and their stories.
I/O: Do you feel like leaders, or do you think of yourselves as part of a larger community?
BL & M-LM: We think of what we do as teamwork, even if it’s still a relatively small team that’s scattered around the world. The women that inspire us are added on to that team, as well as the women who adhere to our brand’s ambitions.
I/O: Who are you inspired by?
BL & M-LM: People we meet. We like the kind of people who listen rather than talk. Those that stay calm and positive when things get tough.
I/O: Have some people in particular helped you get to where you are?
BL & M-LM: The people in our factories, mostly. Fatima Andrade who produces our underwear, tee-shirts and swimwear in Port. Myriam Joly, who produces and develops all our mesh and socks in Castres. Tugba Mert, who produces and develops all our woven silk, linen and cotton fabric in Odemis. They have taught and helped us a lot.
I/O: What’s the main challenge you face today?
BL & M-LM: Finding time to do things, to communicate, to meet the right people to bring on our team. But it’s also what helps us grow at our own rhythm.
I/O: Who takes care of you?
BL & M-LM: Our friends and families. Ourselves, as well. It’s very important to take care of yourself. When you feel good about yourself, it allows you to spread love to others.
I/O: How important is travel in your life?
BL & M-LM: Absolutely central. It allows us to see different things that bring us out of our realities, to get inspiration. It also helps us to get on with production, to meet our clients, to talk. It’s very condensed. Our next trip is to Japan, for the opening of our store in April.
I/O: How do you maintain a healthy balance in life?
BL & M-LM: We work from home, so we get to see our children and manage our time. That way, there’s balance between our professional and personal lives. The cities we live in allow us to enjoy nearby nature and that’s a great help.
I/O: Do you have shared rituals?
BL: We both start our days with a bit of fresh air! I have my 45 minute walk up a hill with my dog.
M-LM: And I run every morning.
I/O: What do you do when something annoys you?
M-L: I run. I go to the ocean, to the mountains.
BL: I exercise as much as possible: yoga, hiking, swimming, and evacuate the feeling so I can get my ideas straight and not go around in a circle. And when I know how to handle the problem, I confront it on a day where I feel up for it.
I/O: Three words to define yourselves.
BL & M-LM: Relaxing, listening, giving.
Thank you: Pauline Wormser and Marie Persyn at Such&Such.