Cotélac is a French prêt-a-porter label run by husband-and-wife team Pierre Pernod and Raphaëlle Cavalli. It’s easy to see why their particular brand of an understated – yet not under-designed- vision of womenswear with a light hippy-dippy feeling would be popular with the bobo crowd of Paris. But, theirs is a success that is not limited to the bohemian bourgeoisie of France. They now have boutiques in the USA, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan in addition to a spread of European countries.
Although Cotélac has actually been around since the 1990’s, it is one of those quietly built small empires. From their base in the foothills of the French Alps, Pierre Pernod and Raphaëlle Cavalli slowly built their business, brand and characteristic style. Both had long histories in the fashion and textile trades that they could apply effectively: Raphaëlle’s expertise and specialism in fabrics and knits; Pierre’s family hosiery business which would eventually form the basis of the Cotélac studio. All of these resources underpinned Raphaëlle’s development of a style that favoured simple colour palettes and a light and simple look, even though this could be deceptive. As some commentators have pointed out, her skill with a personal style of pleating and excellent cutting is the real reason that women like the clothes so much. Also, although never shouted loudly, there is often something in the cut of the garments that gives just enough of a hint at the self-conscious deconstructionist approach to let any onlooker know that the wearer is in touch with the tenets of high fashion. In other words, perfect for a woman who wants to appear fashionable without being too trendy.
It’s a winning design approach backed by a sound business sense that has seen the Cotélac following snowball very quietly. After opening numerous shops in other countries to meet local demand, in 2007 Cotélac opened a flagship store in Paris’ exclusive rue Saint Honoré, a neutral minimalist space in which to best show off the clothes.
The reoccurring motifs of smocks, coat-like dresses and low-crotch middle eastern style trousers in various forms in the current collection gives an insight into the design philosophy. Taken as individual pieces, the light garments are highly versatile; perfect for the practicalities of a working day or unwinding during casual leisure time, yet they are also quickly dressed up to look smart and chic for more dressy occasions.