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Anne Fontaine, a Classic Revisited

Q&A
Designer Anne Fontaine.

As the 20th anniversary of Anne Fontaine approaches, the French luxury brand proves that a classic always remans in style. This season the brand introduces a new collection that’s decidedly fresh and modern. Purists will be happy to see the core of Anne Fontaine remains in the white shirt, but don’t be surprised if you’re drawn to some new additions as well, like a sexy leather pencil skirt for the fall. Here, we talk to Anne Fontaine about expansion, her favorite fall looks and giving back to her native Brazil.

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Why did you decide now was the right time to take the brand in a new direction?
I wanted to create a real universe around the white shirt. In order to achieve this, I created a full wardrobe for the Fall Winter 2013/2014 collection. The product assortment consists of leather items, featuring skirts, leggings and coats. Additionally, I further developed the accessories and handbag line in order to make the world of the white shirt complete.

What are some of the key pieces in the fall collection?
Among the key pieces for the fall are the new leather items. There is a wonderful pencil skirt, Melyna, and a leather shearling coat, Moze. We have also introduced silk shirts in new and iconic shapes. Milana and Molene with their lavaliere are strong pieces emulating the spirit of the collection.

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What is your favorite piece from the Les Precieuses collection?                      
I really enjoy draping and creating volume in my designs. This season I had the pleasure to design the Milene blouse in organza. It’s a really a work of haute couture.

Working with a classic piece such as the white shirt, how do you keep that element fresh?
I am really passionate about the fabrics and by the craftsmanship in my designs. Design for me is a limitless universe. The white shirt can be reinvented each season. I am compulsive by nature, one week I can imagine and draw a lot of new designs. But the most challenging thing is to choose the one design to then produce.

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The story of the brand began when you happened upon a trunk filled with crisp white shirts. Can you tell us more about that day ?
My husband Ari had just inherited a small company that manufactured men’s shirts. One day I discovered this trunk filled with white shirts and I had a revelation: I wanted to create only white shirts and make them essentials in the feminine wardrobe. At that time it didn’t exist at all and I have always believed that the white shirt had an infinite potential, just like the little black dress.

The brand is 20 years old now, what are some of the ways in which it has evolved over the years?
The brand has evolved because we developed and have grown internationally. We have now more than 70 boutiques  worldwide, in the US, in Europe, in Asia, and we are going to open a store in Rio de Janeiro, which is really symbolic to me because I was born in Rio from a Brazilian mom and a French dad.

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How has it remained the same?
The white shirt, even if I make it new each season, stays and will always remain the heart of the brand Anne Fontaine.

You collaborated with the late, great designer Andree Putman. Tell us how that relationship began, and what she contributed to the brand.
I have always appreciated her work. When my Maison had more maturity, and we were able to offer her services, my team contacted her and unfortunately she was not available immediately. I was really disappointed, but one of my friends used to know her really well and during a dinner, she talked about us not having the chance to work with her. So Andrée asked for a meeting and during it, was seduced by the project. From that first meeting we had a really good relationship. We continued to collaborate until she passed away. She was a woman I really admired. Andrée marked her era as an inspiration to many.

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You have a foundation that has committed itself to restoring the Brazilian rainforest by planting and protecting one million trees by 2015. What makes this particular effort so important to you?
Since I was a child, I have been sensitive to the protection of nature and the environment. I had the chance to share the daily life of an Indian tribe in the Amazon forest for six months during my adolescence, before coming to study in France. That's why I cannot be indifferent to what is happening.

The deforestation rate is the highest in Brazil, where 30% of the world’s rainforests are located. I created Forest Day in order to take action against such a disaster: for one day every Fall, (Spring in Brazil), 50 percent of all proceeds from Anne Fontaine stores worldwide go towards reforestation projects. Through its partnerships with Brazilian NGOs and local farmers, which started two years ago, the Anne Fontaine Foundation supports ambitious reforestation and watershed recovery programs.

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Tell us about Trees in Focus.  
We created an exhibition called Trees In Focus, which will take place in five countries, where 35 artists photographers donated their works, which are sold at auction to benefit the Foundation. The first was held in Sotheby’s New York this past March, and next year it will be in France. From these photos we created a book in partnership with Assouline which we sell in our shops with 100% of the proceeds being donated to the foundation.

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You were born in Brazil, can you share some of your favorite haunts from your native country.
I love Brazilian music so it is definitely one of my favorite things about Brazil. In Rio I especially love the Hotel Fasano in Ipanema and also the Copacabana Palace. I love to eat seafood so while in Rio I make sure to visit the restaurant Satyricon. My favorite dishes are sashimis, prawns, and “badeijo” in salt crust. The best meats can be eaten in the very typical restaurants from South Brazil called churrascarrias.  The best one for me is Porcao under the beach of Botafogo.

In Ipanema you will find streets with red carpets along the sidewalks featuring the best shopping available. They also feature an array of ice cream shops. I love to have a shopping break and try one of the 300 tropical fruit flavors.

A must see is the region of Bahia and the miles of deserted beaches, perfect for a romantic get-a-way or family vacation. In Bahia, my favorite hotel is the Hotel Txai because it blends with the landscape. For those who like to be seen, I suggest Troncoso in Bahia, but you will never see me there!

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