A labour of love
Femme Maison is a dual love story. It’s a story about the love between a man and a woman, and it’s a story about their mutual love for a luxury womenswear label.
Franziska Fürpass-Kermani and Sia Ali-Pour-Kermani first crossed paths in Vienna in 2011. Ali-Pour-Kermani had recently moved to the city from Milan. ‘After working intensively in fashion for a couple of years, I wanted to quit the industry entirely, and Vienna seemed the best place for it since the professional fashion infrastructure was definitely not as tempting as in cities like Paris, Milan or London,’ he explains. ‘Then, one day, while trying to find some headspace at a bar during a fashion event, I met a breathtaking and charismatic woman: Franziska. The love of my life and ... a fashion designer.’
A strong beginning
Having graduated from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna the year before, in 2011 Fürpass-Kermani had just set up her own label, Femme Maison. The couple decided to join forces, with Fürpass-Kermani as creative director in control of all things relating to design and production, and Ali-Pour-Kermani in charge of brand management and strategies. Fast-forward five years and Femme Maison is now a healthy, growing brand.
Notions of womanhood
Simplicity, effortlessness and purity are all appropriate descriptions of Femme Maison garments, but the expression that the pair often uses to encapsulate the brand’s aesthetic is raw elegance. The notion of womanhood is central to the label, starting with the very name of the brand. Femme Maison is the title of a series of paintings by Louise Bourgeois, an artist who inspired Fürpass-Kermani when she was starting out. ‘The sense of an awakening and the sense of a re-invention of oneself were two elements which I was obsessed with translating into women’s garments,’ she says. The term Femme Maison took on its own meaning as she gradually began to explore and interpret the concepts in her own way. She adds that in the name of the brand a house is ‘a metaphor for a woman’s character and body – a personal world in which the Femme Maison woman feels authentic, powerful and elegantly comfortable’.
The spring/summer 2016 collection, for example, was inspired by the compelling 1960s film La Piscine. ‘I have always been strongly inspired by certain women and characters,’ says Fürpass-Kermani. In this movie, the striking contrast between the characters of Romy Schneider and Jane Birkin was captivating, she adds. ‘One is grown up, serious and glamorous; the other is livelier and conveys the sense of youth.’
Of course the label itself is young yet sophisticated: in five years Femme Maison has progressively evolved. Growing as brand doesn’t just require creative development. Knowing how to run a successful business is an essential part of the process, and there’s been a lot to learn along the way, as Fürpass-Kermani explains. ‘At the beginning, the brand was mostly based on a strong poetic, artistic approach. But I quickly realised what Femme Maison needed to take it to the next level. From the role of designer, I also had to become a businesswoman heading an entrepreneurial venture.’
The synergy of the couple’s skills has been a strong force in the brand’s progress ‒ as well as making for an enriching relationship. This, says Fürpass-Kermani, ‘is very dynamic and broadens one’s mind, complements one’s individual knowledge and skills.’ They recently married, and their close bond means they support and look out for one another. ‘Whether at work or in our private life, it is so important that we take care of each other while still working at a very fast pace. We work powerfully together, on a strong joint mission.’
The Viennese fashion scene may not have quite the same weight as that of Paris or London, but the couple behind Femme Maison speaks highly of the city. Their studio is in the historic Servitenviertel quarter. After handpicking the finest fabrics, Fürpass-Kermani gets to work there. ‘Every Femme Maison piece is designed and developed to achieve the perfect silhouette and to guarantee the best fit and form.’ The duo has also focused on building firm business relations in Vienna. For example, guests of the luxury five-star hotel Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom will notice the elegant uniforms of the female staff at Das Loft bar and restaurant – designed by Femme Maison. Yet the couple’s efforts don’t stop there; they also have an international outlook and frequently work with new stockists across the world. ‘We really enjoy, and are proud of, being an internationally operating fashion company based in Vienna,’ says Fürpass-Kermani.
As one of the labels putting Vienna on the international fashion map, there’s a clear sense that this is just the beginning of a long and fruitful trajectory for an ambitious couple and an impressive label.