There is no word to describe Michele Bohbot. She’s a feeling – an intuitive, well-connected feeling that has guided her successful career. When she was advised against joining forces with JCPenney, she followed her instincts and today reigns as their longest running design partner at 14 formidable years.
In May, I had the honor of lunching with Michele, her husband and business partner, Marc, and two JCPenney representatives to discuss her take on fashion today, her extended collection with BISOU BISOU, and how she, not Christy Turlington, launched one of the first yoga collections.
How do you see fashion going and where?
Budgets have been shifted. Before our spending was more on things like iPhones, everything and I think that the woman is spending more of her money on her leisure, on how she’s going to feel, her well-being, her fitness, her diet, her dreams and then the clothes. The clothes today is not anymore what they used to be, so how we can put the one on one to give other comforts like the beauty, the chic and the feeling of well-being. All those elements have to represent the new way of how she is going to dress.
So how do you see the woman?
I think we see the woman more sporty chic. She needs to feel feminine, sexy but sporty at the same time. When I say sporty, I don’t mean active. She’s going to go to the gym, but she has to feel this energy, this empowerment, this confidence that when you wear those new tennis shoes, for example, that these accessorize, they give you energy. You don’t want to go to the gym, and you feel lazy. As soon as you put your tennis shoes, boom, you’re on the go. The clothes has to have this energy and it’s all about that. I’m opening a yoga center in my building. I have my design home, BISOU BISOU where I design clothes and then there I’m doing a yoga center. I say, “I’m dressing the woman and undressing them.”
I love that!
I’ve been so grateful for what fashion brought into my life that now to be fashioned by common issues, they have to find themselves. How they feel inside is more important. It’s not because you’re going to wear red things that you’re going to feel happy and strong. Now the difference is women become more savvy. She needs more than just the power of the color. She needs the color but she needs also something else and this other thing is how she feels inside. This is the most important for women. We have to work on ourselves and it’s very difficult. But if we win the battle, we can increase eighty percent of our power in all areas.
You’ve been ahead of the game many times when it has come to fashion?
Seventeen years ago I came out with a yoga line before Christy Turlington. I was too avant-garde. I came and I called it l’Om Yoga. Everybody knew what it is. They were going to introduce it, but nobody had the department of yoga. They didn’t know where to put it. I was talking to everyone. Everybody loved it, but they didn’t invest then. A year or two years after Christy Turlington came with a yoga line. Now seventeen years after I see yoga in all departments and they use the name now to commercialize anything. I see the evolution. In part, they didn’t understand that the feeling that the people are looking for today and it’s not about just a dream but a feeling. They want to feel good. They want to improve themselves.
Tell me more about BISOU BISOU and how your experience has been working with JCPenney.
The experience has been fantastic over all these years. They’re very nice people to work with and they really help me keep my design as much as I can without sacrificing any detail of it and bringing it at the best price. It’s very affordable and the quality is very nice. It’s one that you can shop all over. You can’t find such nice quality. They go through different testing. They did a great, great job on that, and are always trying to please me and to stay loyal to my brand image. I really do appreciate that. It has been a great partnership–in this sense. Especially now with the new category that they gave me. So I’m very happy.
That’s exciting! I think the extended collections will do really well in the store too.
I think so. Before going we did a test that had been very well received, very positive. It’s my customer, so I know her. I know what she wants. I don’t want to give her what she dreams of, but what she needs.