A Luxurious Interview With Frances Austen

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When did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?

Ever since I was little I loved to sketch outfits and read fashion magazines. I would read through all the details of Vogue and W, I loved to learn about the designers, their process and who wore their clothes. For a lot of reasons I didn’t think it was a realistic career path so I took a roundabout way to get here working in merchandising for years but ultimately got here when I decided I wanted to start Frances Austen.  

What’s it like being in the industry?

I think there is an image that fashion is super glamorous and there are parts that are but even, for example, being at a photoshoot is work. As the founder of the brand you have to make sure that everything goes smoothly, that you are present making the tough decisions (sometimes the decision is orange shoe or silver shoe with that outfit) and show confidence and leadership. Mostly, like a lot of jobs, it is a lot of work and especially launching a business it has been long hours doing lots of unglamorous things like unpacking boxes and working in spreadsheets.  

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How would you describe your brand?

Frances Austen is all about being effortlessly chic everyday, our clothes are versatile, sexy and timeless. We only use natural and biodegradable fabrics, Silk & Cashmere, and every item is designed with the idea of how do you wear this piece all the time- to work, to dinner, to a cocktail party, on the weekend.  

Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs?

I start by thinking about the occasions our customer is encountering in her life and what she might need to feel beautiful and put together in the season and then I look through different resources like magazines, Pinterest, vintage pieces and start to pull the details together that will make each item special and useable for the women I design for.  

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Why is quality so important for the brand?

Having spent time working in fast fashion and learning about how fashion impacts the environment I realized that the best thing we can do as consumers to mitigate that impact is to buy less, wear it often, own it longer but in order to do that you need to buy high quality items. I want Frances Austen to be part of the solution by contributing only high quality, biodegradable garments into the world.  

How does your clothing help empower women?

I believe fashion is empowering and being able to feel good in what you are wearing is such a powerful feeling. No clothing will solve your problems, but when deployed appropriately it can contribute to feeling confident and that is the most empowering feeling.  

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What are the three clothing items every woman must own?

I am completely biased but I think a great cashmere sweater is critical, if you buy wisely you can wear it forever and it can be casual or dressed up but it always looks polished and feels so good. I think a great pair of jeans is a must, we are so casual now that jeans go almost anywhere so having a pair that feels good and looks good with flats, boots, heels is a wardrobe must have – personally I have been wearing the Frame Le Nouveau Straight fit. My last must have is a beautiful blouse, it can be the backdrop for some fun jewelry, a statement jacket and you can wear it anywhere.

What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?

Right now I am really interested in thinking about color and how it layers, what it says about your mood and where you are going. I was really inspired by the Diebenkorn Matisse exhibit at the SFMOMA and have drawn a lot of inspiration from those artists and how they play with color.  

What advice would you give to young designers?

Pursue all your other interests be it travel, technology, art, rock climbing it will make you a better student of the world and better able to understand people, their interests, lives and give you a wide array of references to draw on as you design.  

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To learn more about Frances Austin, visit https://www.francesausten.com/, or stop by Batch SF to see and purchase products in person!

Bita Khaleghi