Who is… La Fille d’O?
La fille d’O is the Belgian, avantgarde, no-compromises lingerie brand through which Murielle Scherre has been unleashing her own fashion revolution since 2003.
From the very start, the designer has been producing her lingerie, clothing and swimwear in Belgium, using mainly Belgian materials.
La fille d’O is a place where ‘womxn’ can be themselves, where shame and doubt are shaken off, where the human body is respected and celebrated in all its diversity, and models are shown as they really are.
Scherre gets inspired by the people around her who are intelligent and curious – people with a lust for life.
All la fille d’O magic happens responsibly, right up to the office building, which is well insulated, equipped with second-hand furniture, and stocked with vegan-only goodies for the team to snack on.
The decision of what exactly gets to touch our skin should never be taken lightly, according to la fille d’O. That’s why the brand only does business with suppliers that can provide an Oeko-Tex certificate (meaning they don’t use toxic dyes or coatings). In addition, Scherre has a soft spot for local, family-run companies. First, because that’s where the most modern and surprising new fabrics are created. Second, because these kinds of businesses tend to care not only about their wallet, but about the future as well. And third, because they exude the passion and drive that the designer loves to surround herself with, and display an invaluable ‘savoir-faire’ that gets passed on from one generation to the next.
No less than 90% of all la fille d’O fabrics are made in Belgium (the remaining 10% consists of cotton from Austria and silk from France), polyester being the most important one for the brand. Even though this material is made from petroleum, Scherre stresses that she doesn’t use just any polyester. Quite the contrary! La fille d’O opts for an Oeko-Tex certified variant with an impressive lifespan, made by Liebaert in Deinze, Belgium. While polyester usually lasts only about six months, many of Scherre’s customers have been known to wear their la fille d’O items for over ten years. In addition, the advantages in terms of carbon footprint that come with the fabric’s Belgian origin vastly outweigh the benefits of a recycled fiber that is made abroad. Small scale; big impact. Polyester is also very easy to clean and quick to dry. So, you need less detergent and no dryer at all.
All of Scherre’s designs show a deep love for humanity and the differences that make us unique. Her lingerie only contains the bare necessities, out of respect for the purity that every body possesses for her. La fille d’O is synonymous with guilt-free, built-to-last designs that both maker and user can feel good about. Using premium polyester, Scherre already significantly extends the lifespan of her garments, but the designer also makes sure to use no coatings or glues, just yarn. The brand’s signature easy sizing and adjustable contour straps anticipate the normal wear of the lycra and make sure the items retain their perfect fit.
Scherre wastes as little fabric as possible, for instance thanks to cleverly placed seams. The designer sometimes even lets the size of the fabric dictate the length of a certain garment, or the width of the sleeves. This allows her to avoid waste while still ensuring premium quality. Creativity clearly comes in all kinds of forms.
La fille d’O doesn’t follow the hype but instead creates timeless looks that work well with a wide range of wardrobe styles, because of their limited colour palette, among other characteristics. They also match with a wide range of customers, keeping them company throughout various stages in their lives. Scherre’s slow fashion garments can even be made to measure, for instance for customers recovering from breast or other surgery. Finally, the designer takes great care to create items that people actually like, because enough unwanted stuff gets landfilled already.
Especially in the production phase, Scherre experiences the full force of the butterfly effect, or the ability to cause a landslide with the beating of a wing. That’s why the la fille d’O power woman has been teaming up with Quality Consult, a small factory in Kemmel, Belgium, right from the get-go. This is what fair trade is all about for her: not randomly collecting fair trade labels but doing business with your neighbours – with seamstresses you know on a first-name basis because you see them so often, and who receive the same wages and the same insurance package as yourself. Keeping things local also means investing in your own community, being able to shift gears at the drop of a hat, and to keep a close eye on the process – not to mention the ecological benefits and the efficiency gains that come with short lines of communication. The latter enable la fille d’O to cut redundancies from the production process and take some pressure off the planet.
Murielle Scherre wants design, production and consumption to be a close-knit bunch. Even if taking the production process abroad would be up to fifty times cheaper, the environmental, logistical and human cost would simply be too high. For one, the knowhow of Belgian seamstresses is unmatched. Scherre knows perfectly well that it’s impossible to compete with labels that shift their production to low-wage countries. Being a fair brand means being more expensive, but she hopes the consumer will realize that this creates local jobs and keeps the craft alive, too.
Finally, la fille d’O keeps its stock limited to make sure that every garment finds an owner. This signals a radical break from the absurd ‘rule’ that a normal production process comes with about 30% overstock.
When packaging its products, la fille d’O tries to provide reusable options, such as tote-bags that come in handy in a thousand different situations. Moreover, la fille d’O not only sells regular collections: the samples that come with creating a new design also end up on the shelves or on the web shop, rather than on the waste pile. Over the years, Scherre’s sample sales have made lots of women happy.
Scherre creates items that can be worn any way you like. They are easy to mix and match, and they function as shapewear, swimwear and lingerie all in one. Saving your best underwear for ‘special occasions’ is not la fille d’O’s style. Every day is special, so the brand wants its customers to wear their products to the max.
Though the lycra la fille d’O uses has an impressive lifespan, the brand takes things a step further with a repair service. In addition, it provides washing instructions and tips, for instance advising customers to use a GuppyFriend washing net to capture the microplastics released during washing, so they don’t end up in the ecosystem. Other tips: steer clear of the dryer and use biodegradable detergents.
Scherre encourages her customers to have their la fille d’O garments recycled at the end of their lives, because polyester just begs for reuse. When it comes to those items that you don’t wear anymore but that are still in perfect condition, the brand advises you to give them to a friend or donate them via PACKMEE, which sells used clothing and donates the profits to a good cause of your choice. If you’ve got unused lingerie that you’re not interested giving away but would like to resell, you can even get in touch with la fille d’O to help find a new owner.
What does sustainability mean for you?
Murielle Scherre: “Sustainability means being able to keep doing something for a long, long time, without harming the elements that are part of the process. It means being able to create something that not only does no harm, but that actually conveys goodness and wellbeing. Sustainability is going for that diamond wedding anniversary, not a one-night stand. I would love to see all of us get past sustainability as a goal and make it the norm.”
This page was created in February 2021. Curious to find out where la fille d’O stands now? Head to www.lafilledo.com and get in touch with the brand via e-mail or chat.
What challenges are you currently facing?
Scherre: “We’ve been an independent brand since 2003. On the one hand, this makes me somewhat slower than my competitors. On the other hand, it allows me to respond to situations with incredible agility. This flexibility enables me to turn most challenges into characteristics that make us stand out from the crowd. Going for a 100% local, Belgian production process is a pain if you’re interested in through-the-roof profits, but for us it has become a way to make a product that people feel comfortable wearing, because we can keep a close watch on every step. We’re only at a disadvantage as a small brand when we are too progressive in certain aspects. Take recycled polyamide fibers – still not a mainstream resource. Because I want to work with Oeko-Tex certified and local materials, I sometimes have to wait for those resources to become even cleaner and smarter. If a certain challenge cannot yet be solved sustainably, being sensible about it is often the next best thing.”
Which lesson(s) do you want to share?
Scherre: “Not only our lingerie, but our entire modus operandi is transparent. And that’s the way it should be. ‘Make trouble. Ask questions.’”