Faux fur fun

Chloe Mendel -- daughter of Gilles Mendel of J. Mendel fame – is putting her own spin on following in her family’s furrier-fashion footsteps.

Chloe Mendel — daughter of Gilles Mendel of J. Mendel fame — is putting her own spin on following in her family’s furrier-fashion footsteps.

Her new Maison Atia, founded with Gustave
Maisonrouge, has opened a boutique on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue for its faux fur offerings. They include coats that you can personalize with patches for a contemporary edge, as well as accessories and home furnishings.

Recently, Maison Atia teamed with KOIO, a shoe company, to create the first 100% vegan leather sneaker accented with faux fur — a limited-edition platform sneak made in Italy.

Maison Atia is a supporter of PAWS Chicago, a leading no-kill shelter. For each coat purchased, Maison Atia provides life-saving transportation for a homeless pet from a high-kill shelter to a no-kill one.

Charmingly modest for one so young (27) and accomplished — “I don’t have much of a background,” she says — Chloe grew up in New York City of French-Taiwanese descent. Internships in her father’s atelier — she helped him launch J. Mendel’s first haute couture collection in July 2016 — led her to “crystallize” her ideas about faux fur.

She has also managed her life partner Billy Corgan’s tea shop, Madame Zuzu, in Highland Park, Illinois.

“We are currently reopening (in) spring…which is very exciting,” she says.

Their other venture is of the parental kind, with children Clementine and Augustus.

Dividing her time between the Big Apple and the Windy City, Chloe says, “I guess my background is an eclectic collection of many unique experiences beyond design and motherhood.”

Recently, Chloe took time to answer a few questions via email:

Chloe, J. Mendel began as a furrier in 1870 St. Petersburg, Russia, with Joseph Mendel serving as furrier to Czar Alexander II. Do you have the sense with this venture that you and your family have come full circle?

“Yes, absolutely, I am the sixth generation of a long lineage of furriers and I feel that I am taking the family’s heritage and savoir-faire into a modern alternative — faux fur. My goal is to offer women who want to look and feel glamorous but don’t want to compromise on quality and craftsmanship another option, which is more accessible. What better way to show both respect to my family but also creativity than taking these old-furrier techniques into a new material?”

Fashionistas recently learned that Queen Elizabeth is going faux in her personal clothing choices. (State robes are part of the crown and exempt.) Do you feel you are part of a trend that’s still cresting?

“Maison Atia launched (in 2017) a week before Gucci announced it was going fur-free, a month after the cover of Vogue was all about faux fur. The saying is that timing is everything. Well, I guess ours could not have been better. Since then, a number of luxury brands like Chanel and Prada announced they, too, were going fur-free. So it does feel like we are part of a movement, and it’s quite gratifying when media speak of this phenomenon to see Maison Atia mentioned alongside such venerable brands as Stella McCartney or Chanel.”

What makes your approach to faux fur different than other designers?

“While we are not the only ones creating high-end faux fur coats and accessories, we are the only brand that exclusively focuses on luxury faux fur. Indeed, for the other luxury brands, faux fur is only a very small portion of their creations. Other faux fur companies are not focused on true craftsmanship, and we are the only ones consistently using the finest materials available. As we continue to grow, we remain authentic to our values and won’t compromise on our quality and heritage.” 

You worked with your father, Gilles, CEO and creative director of J. Mendel, at the beginning of your career. Do you two talk shop and trade fashion advice?

“My father has been a constant source of inspiration for me and I continue to learn from him at every turn. I always ask myself when looking at a new style:  Would he approve of the way the coat is made? Would he feel I am correctly merging my inspiration, creativity and craftsmanship? I know he is proud of me, but I also know he will not hesitate to be what I would call ‘constructively critical’ when needed. It is an amazing gift to have such a perfectionist to give you honest feedback. I promise it keeps me in check.” 

What should fans be eyeing in your winter collection?

“Our faux fur hats. They are so warm and fluffy and an amazing gift.”

What should they be looking for in your spring collection?

“We are working on many cute faux fur items that are less seasonal, such as our pochettes (envelope handbags), sweaters and little gifts in unique colors. (We’re) focusing on fun little surprises with a faux fur touch to stay on brand and very cute.”

What are you looking forward to in 2020?

“My co-founder, Gustave Maisonrouge, who takes care of the business aspect of the company, is working hard at identifying the best distribution partners for us. We have expanded our retail partnerships nationally. In addition to Le Board and Oui! Boutique in Manhattan, Neapolitan and Ikram in Chicago, Performance Ski in Aspen, and Halsbrook, where we were already last year, we are now part of the Orchard Mile online community, along with such iconic brands as Valentino and Balenciaga. 

“We are also honored to be both online and at five key locations with Neiman Marcus this fall — Hudson Yards in New York City, Short Hills in New Jersey, San Francisco, Dallas and Boston. We are even now available in Deauville, France. 

“So we look forward to capitalizing on this year’s momentum to continue to expand, looking first to Europe and then eventually to Asia.”

For more, visit maisonatia.com.

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