Growing up between Paris and Togo, Priscilla Debar spent a lot of time with her great-grandmother, one of the first successful women entrepreneurs in Africa. “She designed and traded wax fabric on the Continent and was the embodiment of feminism,” says Debar, who credits this influence with her early love of design, entrepreneurship, and slow fashion. Fast forward a couple decades, and she has combined all three passions here at FAUBOURG, where we offer sustainable fashion for women conscious about both style and industry ethics. Recently, Priscilla chatted with Antonia Bohlke of Mochni.com about the launch of FAUBOURG, her hopes for the fashion industry, and making sustainability the new standard.
Can you speak a bit about your path to FAUBOURG—where you’re from, what led you to fashion, how that evolved into what you’re doing today?
I was born and raised in Paris, France, where I lived until I moved to New York 13 years ago. My family is originally from Togo and Ghana and I used to spend my summers there, so I also have a deep cultural connection with West Africa. There, I was around my great-grandmother, one of the first successful women entrepreneurs in Africa. She designed and traded wax fabric on the Continent and was the embodiment of feminism. With little ready-to-wear available, the market there was, and still is to some extent, all about custom-made garments, so fabric selection is how women approach style. With that influence, I developed very early on a passion for fashion and entrepreneurship.
How do those early influences affect your philosophy as an entrepreneur now?
Growing up in Paris and West Africa, one of my favorite things was to ‘design’ my outfits. I loved being an active part in the making of my clothes. I would pick out a fabric, sketch a dress and take it to the tailor or seamstress for custom-making, in true slow-fashion mode. That made me understand at a young age what it took to make a piece of clothing—the time and the skills. I think we’ve become disconnected from that and are pushed to consume senselessly cheap, low-quality products in the name of trends. And we want it all “right now!” But this unconsidered consumption hurts us all, starting with the underpaid, exploited workers who make the $10 shirt and the toll unfettered consumption is taking on the planet. FAUBOURG was created to help style-conscious women find well-made and beautifully designed clothing that doesn’t collide with their values and ethics. It should be exciting to dress more consciously.
How do you see yourself as a change maker within the industry? And what inspires and motivates you in your everyday life to work for the "fashion revolution"?
It’s very motivating to be the bridge or connector between shoppers and brands and see that the work you do is having a direct impact. People are always shocked when you tell them fashion is the most polluting industry after oil—I was, when I first heard that. But I’m not interested in making anyone feel guilty for buying from fast-fashion brands—we have all done it. Rather, it’s about sharing the information and better equipping people to make their decision. For example, brands are making a lot of positive changes at the moment. They are quickly understanding that they can produce more responsibly and strengthen their position on the market. I’m already seeing further efforts from designers we work with to make their next collection even more sustainable, and this makes me very excited about the future.
Tell us about the philosophy at FAUBOURG and what we should expect.
What we set out to do at FAUBOURG is simple: make sustainable and ethical fashion desirable for style-conscious women. You’ll find everyday essentials, like super-soft tees and flattering jeans, but also more elevated items, like tailored pants and jackets, as well as luxurious knits and dresses. When we decide to offer a garment on our site, aesthetics always come first. We’re making sure every item on the shop has both design and ethical qualities. We believe in quality over quantity and style over trends, and we support brands who produce responsibly. That could mean using organic fabrics, eco-friendly processes, or recycled materials. It can also mean producing locally, making products by hand, or ensuring safety and living wages for workers. We can’t demand that all those boxes be checked at once. What matters to us is that a genuine effort is made in the direction of responsibility.
To me, the FAUBOURG Insta-feed looks very stylish and inspiring. I love your selection of minimal, timeless, natural, yet contemporary mood images which makes me super excited for your store launch. How would you describe the style on FAUBOURG?
We curate with the “city girl” in mind. Actually, she’s not a girl but a woman. She’s smart and creative. She doesn’t have a lot of time but will slow down to smell the flowers. She’s developed her own personal style, always on point but never dictated by trends. And she loves to travel, is eager to connect with other cultures. She needs to keep life interesting. So of course she demands a lot from her clothes—sophisticated design, comfort, and durability. And she want to see her values reflected in her wardrobe, as well.
Click through for the full interview on Mochni.com.