Marie France Van Damme makes chic look effortless. Here, she shares her essentials for traveling, why she launched her eponymous brand and a few of the key looks available exclusively at her new Bal Harbour boutique.
What inspired you to launch the Marie France Van Damme Luxury Resort Wear collection?
After 35 years of working in the fashion industry - manufacturing clothes for private label for companies including Marks and Spencer and Saks Fifth Avenue in Asia -I introduced my resort wear collection in summer 2011. The line was inspired by my extensive travels and need for a chic and effortless collection to take me across the globe. I wanted to give women the true key to a lifestyle of luxury, where sophistication is made simple and elegance effortless, through timeless pieces to reflect your own personal style and attitude.
Resort has become one of the most important collections to many designers. With year-round Resort Wear, in what ways do your looks change season to season?
My collections are very much resort and Dolce Vita-inspired, yet are designed to transition seamlessly from city to resort anytime of the year. Collections are not distinguished by season, but relevance. With that said, each season we introduce a new collection. However, we also reinterpret some of our signature styles such as the boubou caftan with exclusive new prints and fabrications each season, as well as introduce exclusive capsule collections in our city stores across the globe. As we only introduce limited productions of collections each season, each store in itself is unique, with exclusive items at each location you won't find anywhere else.
When was your first exposure to the fashion world?
Born in Montreal, Canada, I attended university studying business administration until a strike at the school led me to occupy my free time with an internship at a leading women's apparel brand. The brief interaction with the fashion industry quickly changed my path. I moved to New York to head up one of the first private label businesses dealing with the top department stores. I pioneered the Orient in the early 1980's when I relocated to Hong Kong to start my manufacturing company specializing in women's wear.
Why was Bal Harbour Shops an important location for your brand?
Miami has always been an important market for us. It has always been a dream of mine to open a store at Bal Harbour Shops-the brand has been available at Saks and Neiman Marcus and does very well there. It is every brand's dream. We have many clients in Miami and will now be able to provide an exceptional environment to present our latest collection in one of the world's most exclusive luxury shopping destinations.
Travel is a part of your brand's DNA. Care to share some of your own carry-on essentials?
Don't spend hours thinking what you are going to wear. You should have 10 pieces that you can mix and match and create different looks. My pieces are so light, you can carry them all in our travel bag, on the plane, under your seat. Nothing worse than waiting for luggage that might never arrive! I would take 2 shorts dresses with me, I call them my travel dresses, my girlfriends call my dresses "shift" dresses. Throw them on, be comfortable and look perfectly chic.
What other travel advice do you have when it comes to packing?
Travel Light. I also keep what I pack to one color, two at most. I try to have pieces that will go from day to night. Night is about accessorizing with a few necklaces, bracelets and a great clutch. The caftan embodies elegance. It holds allure, beauty and mystery and can be worn absolutely anywhere, from resort to beach to dinner. Another must-have piece for staying effortlessly chic when traveling is the silk satin oversized shirt dress.
In addition to designing fashion, you're also a published author. What prompted you to write "RSVP: Simple Sophistication. Effortless Entertaining (Thames & Hudson)" ?
I wanted to share a few ideas and thoughts with my book; not just about 'how' to entertain family and friends, but why. I know too many people going through life crisis-parents and children not communicating, husband and wife growing apart-and I blame it on the fact, that perhaps, we just don't make enough efforts in our home with our families. We get back late from work, usually exhausted, we step into an old comfy jogging suit, eat in front of the TV, while texting our friends, a fast food dinner served in a hurry. It is so much easier than arranging a nice table, slip on a chic caftan, and speak to our family about their day-but it isn't. That is what I am trying to convey in my book.
You'll soon be coming to Bal Harbour for a trunk show. What should we expect from this special appearance?
To celebrate the opening of our new store on the second level, we will host a series of special events including an informal fashion show of my 2018 collection of Dolce Vita essentials. As I mentioned, each store in itself is unique in the looks we carry there. At Bal Harbour, we will introduce a collection of silk-obi belts designed to be worn over a boubou caftan or cover up. We will also introduce a new floral print and a new Glamour collection of black and gold evening dresses including a lame turban.