Because either offering a definitive biography of Sessùn or sketching a fixed portrait of its founder would be rather a simplistic exercise, instead what we’d like to do now, twenty years after she first started, is to report on a state of mind, to talk about someone who is the guiding hand behind a style, inventing a whole world of her.
Own and inviting us to step inside it without worrying about the coming trends and compulsory routines. Sessùn moves ever onwards driven by a wandering inspiration; it takes us by the hand and reminds us that we love fashion when it tells us about lots of other things too.
The former anthropology student from Montpellier could have become a researcher or an archaeologist, for the intense pleasure of discovery.
In the end the things she saw and the people she met on her travels led her to print her memories of several ancient civilisations onto our contemporary fabric.
It was in South America that Emma François felt the first mystical impact, the turning point which foreshadowed a vocation. OK, that may be a cliché but it really doesn’t matter. It was when she came into contact with people who weave, embroider, sew and make things, drawing unquestioningly on a heritage of techniques and know-how, that she finally understood what she had to do and found her own way.
1998 saw the obligatory trip to Paris and the Who’s Next show at which she presented her brand for the first time. Then, having set up base in Marseilles, she got herself noticed in 1999 and 2001 when she was awarded the Jeune Créateur (Young Designer) prize by the Institut Mode Méditerranée (Mediterranean Fashion Institute). Sessùn is now extending its distribution to more than eight hundred points of sale internationally, with two hundred in France, and has a world of its own, its own space, its own chosen design, in seven own-name boutiques in Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Berlin, Bordeaux, Bruxelles, Lille, Marseilles, Paris (3rd, 6th and 11th), Toulouse and Anvers, open in february 2017.
While her brand is travelling, Emma herself still goes out on the road.
At the moment she manages to get away to Japan at least twice a year, drawn by the Japanese sense of contrast, extreme gentleness and urban insanity, the respect for culture and the addiction to technology and certainly also because of the country’s sincere eco-civic global awareness. This is an aspect which Sessùn develops naturally, whenever possible, through series using organic fibres or from fair trade crops.
Is it a matter of listening out for trends so that you can anticipate shades, printed fabrics, shapes and cuts? Yes, of course, but first and foremost it’s about trusting your instincts, the emotions you pick up every single time you go out, whether it’s just a great night on the town or a journey to a faraway place. In any case there can be no commercial concessions because, as she puts it so well herself:
“If you’ve got no feeling for what you’re doing it’ll never work!»
And because Emma François isn’t the kind of woman to work all on her own in a corner somewhere, she quickly forged links with the urban arts, hence loyal, consistent partnerships for her brand with the likes of the graphic and sound designer Sundae and, more recently, the ceramicist Pierre Buisson for the exhibition «Indicrafts». And when you ask her which other artists she’d like to ask to come up with a piece or a limited series, if she could choose anyone at all, Emma talks about photography, mentioning names such as William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Eugene Richards…
At the end of the day, looking beyond these international figures all of whom have a poetic touch which would fit in perfectly with the Sessùn image, Emma also has a place in her heart for talented youngsters, for instance the enchanted, dreamlike, almost symbolist watercolours of the Irish artist Donna Huddleston, whose work has become her latest craze.
A thread running through everything
There are so many other things, some of them insignificant and some essential, which dictate Emma François’ inspiration - it could be a range of colours, a story, a film or a record sleeve. This is how a Sessùn collection comes together, out of almost nothing.
The collection was influenced by the attitude of inspirational female singer-songwriters such as Bat For Lashes, Coco Rosie and The Do, the way they invent things, mixing ethnic, second-hand clothing with more up-to-date pieces.
There’s no denying that Emma draws a great deal on music as an innate reflex, something handed down emotionally through her family.
We can get a feel for this by listening to the three Sessùn Song Collection(2009, 2011 and 2016). In other words it was a genuine collection, a soundtrack sewn together by working with DJ Sundae and Guillaume Sorge and it had a musical thread running gently through it ranging from the indie-folk scene to a few electro-poetic nuggets and, although some are recent whereas others are rather older, they are all timeless.
Sessùn has been expressing this closeness to the world of music instinctively and increasingly seriously for ten years now, through partnerships with challenging, eclectic events, some of which are still making a name for themselves whereas others are already established a rough and by no means full list would include the Aires Libres event in Provence, the B-side festival in Marseilles, Baleapop in Guétary, Midi Festival in Hyères, Yeah! in Lourmarin...
This capacity for polymorphous, selective attention is certainly one of the keys to the Sessùn identity.
It’s a brand which, although rooted in its own time, is still subtle enough to lean towards timelessness.
Emma employs this talent for combinations, influences, tastes and disciplines when working on every Sessùn collection, but also uses it for promoting her brand.
At the end of 2016, an anniversary book and a compilation album – a treat for Sessùn’s most loyal customers – features a whole host of artistic collaborators who have become intrinsic to the Sessun way of life (photographers, artists, designers, graphic designers, craftsmen and women and musicians). The book celebrates the different stories, both major and minor, important and trivial, that have shaped Sessùn over the last two decades
In any case, there’s still a desire to give yourself a treat shining through in these limited runs and little rarities: “so that we don’t get stuck in a logic which’d change as soon as it gets to mass distribution”.
Refined and good enough to eat!