INSIDE SEZANE

A word from our Green Team










Our names are Marie and Marine. We didn't know much about the textile industry before starting at Sézane a few months ago, coming from very different career backgrounds. However, we share a common passion: to make Sézane a brand that continues to be more socially responsible and committed to the planet, every single day.   

On a day-to-day basis here in Paris, we spend most of our time with staff on the design team, production managers, and our welfare and environment expert Elléore. Very quickly we realised that in order to truly understand production at Sézane we needed to go to the places where our pieces are made. We travelled across five countries to visit five diverse ateliers. It’s with great pleasure that we can now share our discoveries, with you here, in total transparency. This journey begins with Portugal and China.

 

Our Portuguese Atelier- Committed to the environment

In February 2019, we made our way to Porto to visit Ana's leatherworking workshop. It’s here that every one of Sézane's bags has been brought into being since the business began. We travelled with Sézane’s product manager Hillary, who visits the atelier every week to conduct quality-monitoring.

As we enter the workshop we get our first surprise: everywhere you look people are working by hand. We were expecting huge industrial machines but discovered the complete opposite.  The expert skills of each worker are key here. There are just over 70 workers altogether including office staff, giving the workplace an intimate, family feel.

Today, our Mona bag is on the production line. We watch the meticulous work being done at every stage: the outline of the piece is done by hand using a pencil on card, then the leather is cut, each item is carefully checked, then the lining is cut and the handle is lined...followed by hot-stamping. Altogether, there are around 50 stages involved in the creation of such a bag. Hillary and Ana discuss the finish of the final product and suggest some final touches. Before visiting, we could never have imagined how much time is needed to conduct the quality controls: they account for around a third of the time it takes to make the bag.  Ana explains that Sézane were very exacting clients when she first began working with vegetable-tanned leather. This leather is more environmentally friendly...but it is also more delicate, and the entire production process and handling by workers have to be adjusted in order to avoid getting something wrong.

Ana has with Sézane ever since began, and her customers and workers “are all part of the family”. This is obvious from the employee benefits that have been set up, such as the academic support classes and the psychological support available to their children. Pregnant women automatically get permanent contracts to help them in their family life.

Ana is certainly a woman of conviction - she is a vegan, which is a bit of a surprise considering she works with leather! She is true to her values though, and only uses carefully sourced leather. She is also deeply committed to the environment: all leather offcuts are made into wallets or given to local artisans, and work on improvements for water and energy consumption is ongoing. What's next? Installation of solar panels.
 

Our Chinese atelier: Expertise in silk 

OUR CHINESE ATELIER AND EXPERTISE IN SILK

In March 2019 we travelled to the Shanghai region to visit an atelier that specialises in working with silk, with whom Sézane has worked with since we began in 2015.  We travelled with Aude, who coordinates the production process at Sézane, and has regular discussions with the Chinese staff from our design studio in Paris.

We met up with Vivian and Jane, the workshop managers. They told us about each of their career trajectories, highlighting Jane's more unusual one - she started out as a dressmaker at the age of 18 and then gradually climbed the career ladder, becoming the pattern manager and then the production line manager, eventually rising to manage this workshop.    Vivian shows us around, and we verify that everything is in line with the report given to us by Elléore (our social welfare and environment expert) before we leave, including cleanliness and safety regulations. No unpleasant surprises at all!    

The Sollie dress (part of our 2019 spring collection) is being made. We watch each stage of the production process and see how meticulous you have to be to manage the delicate nature of the silk. The first stop: metres of colourful, printed fabric are brought out on a roll before two workers, whose job is to identify even the slightest defects (invisible to our unaccustomed eyes...) so that the primary material sent off for production is perfect. Together we explore the laboratory equipped with high-tech facilities, where tests are carried out on the silk: pilling, washing machine, tearing...everything is checked. The pattern machines are modern, and automated in order to make the most of the positioning of the patterns on the fabric and to avoid waste. Despite this, the dressmakers and workers who iron out each item still work by hand. When the garment is finished, it is checked carefully by well-trained eyes before being packaged and sent off.

We asked Vivian about the workers' pay and working schedule. They work from 8 in the morning to 8 in the evening with a break from 11 to 1 for lunch, followed by a siesta (which is of major cultural significance) and then they take another break from 5 to 6 in the afternoon, as it is traditional to eat early in China. In terms of pay, this increases every year in line with the country's growth and the cost of living. At this atelier, pay is 15 to 20% higher than the regional average.

Vivian emphasises the qualification levels of the workers here, some of whom have over twenty years' experience in silk craft.  When she talks about their relationship with silk, she explains that it “flows in their veins ” as this primary material has been made locally for centuries. This ancestral skill coupled with the use of the latest technology is what makes it possible for us to make the very best quality silk items. We are now working on our next challenge together: obtain the OEKO-TEX certification for all garments.