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La Caserne: first incubator dedicated to sustainable fashion in Paris

By Céline Vautard


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FashionUnited takes a look behind this mammoth project, La Caserne, currently being created on 4000 square meters right in the heart of Paris. The force behind it is the enterprise L'Exception whose managing director Maeva Bessis talked in an interview with FashionUnited about the sustainable fashion incubator, which wants to be the largest of its kind in Europe.

How did this project come about?

Firstly, responsible fashion is very dear to L'Exception (EN: Maeva Bessis is the managing director, together with Régis Pennel). We have been looking into this topic for several years. When City Hall Paris announced an invitation of tenders for this unique location, the former Château-Landon barracks (12, rue Philippe-de-Girard, tenth arrondissement), we positioned ourselves with our project and won the tender in November 2018. La Caserne is in line with our thinking, as well as the Smart Choice programme, introduced at the beginning of 2019, that is aimed at promoting brands that are committed to responsible fashion - be it with regard to the choice of raw materials, the production process or the social impact of their production.

What is La Caserne’s mission?

The venue is the largest accelerator for fashion and sustainable creations in Europe. We are convinced that it is Paris’ duty as a fashion capital to set a good example and to exert a positive influence. The aim is also to show that it is possible to work ecologically in business and to be a responsible brand. We need to change the image of responsible fashion, and the incubator strives to change the business model of a brand in three years. Why three years? Because that is exactly the time it takes to restore a chemically polluted cotton field and to regenerate the land. It is a beautiful picture that proves that you can change your working methods profoundly.

What all will take place at La Caserne?

Two thousand square meters will be reserved for the talent Incubator. On 20 to 300 square meters, brands will be able to work on their ecological impact and the transformation of their business model; one wing will be dedicated to high-end brands that take part in fashion weeks, the other to other ready-to-wear brands. On an open space of 100 square meters, start-ups can rent offices on a monthly basis. The whole space will be a complete eco fashion system. This will include a showroom for responsibly sourced raw materials (whether natural - with little water or pesticides - or technical), which has been set up together with partners; a photo studio, a team of coaches who deal with brand issues, a 100 square meter FabLab with innovative tools with Lectra and Tekyn, a press agency, a commercial showroom..... But La Caserne will also be a place for meetings, exchanges and parties!

How exactly?

The services will be offered both for in-house creatives as well as for the general public (on a subscription basis) as a series of "Fashion for Future" conferences. The idea is to talk about progress and developments, as well as to create online courses and video content and to document them. All on-site discussions will be made available. We have asked restaurateur Lionel Bensemoun (co-founder of the Club Le Baron, the Calvi on the Rocks Festival and the Consulats) to come up with a program and to inform the public about the venue and these topics through the festival. Part of the program: The multi-purpose room that will be used for concerts, workshops and yoga courses, and there is also a restaurant and a rooftop bar..... There will also be the L'Exception boutique (on 250 square meters) selling brands with our Smart Choice label and an atrium (800 square meters) where programs will take place, and most importantly, we provide a voluntary contribution to the recycling of textiles in collaboration with Eco TLC, in order to close the loop!

“La Caserne is sending a strong message for Paris: Together, fashion is to become the most responsible industry in the world," says Maeva Bessis, managing director of La Caserne.

What is the current timeline?

We put out a call for proposals to brands and designers who could submit their applications until 31st August 2019 via the website ( lacaserneparis.com). The aim is to inaugurate La Caserne in December 2020. For us, the location is a strong message for Paris: To make fashion the most responsible industry in the world!

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.fr Edited and translated by Simone Preuss.

Photos : ©La Caserne - portrait of Maeva Bessis, managing director, La Caserne.

La Caserne
Sustainable Fashion