In ELLE.com’s monthly series Office Hours, we ask people in powerful positions to take us through their first jobs, worst jobs, and everything in between. For our latest column, we flew to Paris and met Sézane founder Morgane Sézalory at her dreamy apartment on the Left Bank, complete with a casual view of the Eiffel Tower. She created what would eventually become her brand by setting up an eBay Store at the ripe age of 17. “I realized that I had a special gift for finding beauty anywhere,” she says, matter-of-factly, from a cozy breakfast nook in her kitchen. “Seriously, if you put me anywhere, my eye always catches it.” That includes the Parisian label’s new collaboration with former editor-in-chief of InStyle Laura Brown. Ahead, Sézalory discusses being her own boss, the importance of giving back, and why French-girl style has that certain je ne sais quoi (sorry, we had to).
My first job
I worked in retail to have some pocket money but quickly realized I didn’t want people telling me what to do. That became very clear to me. I had to create my own [business], which was the most empowering thing. And I was only 17 years old at the time.
What I wanted to be when I grew up
I studied political science and was good a student. As a young person, I wanted to change the world—not just the fashion industry. Fashion came to me, because I have a real love for vintage. Fortunately, I was able to find a way to mix fashion with being a meaningful person who cares about the world around them. I started taking small steps, then, seven years ago, I decided to create DEMAIN, a philanthropic program that supports equal access to culture and education.
On Sézane’s humble beginnings
I began working for myself very early, almost 20 years ago. But I didn’t realize it would be the beginning of what would eventually become Sézane. I started with vintage eBay finds—I would find beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces and make them more beautiful, then sell them online. This was at the dawn of the internet, and I realized that I had special gift for finding beauty anywhere. Seriously, if you put me anywhere, my eye always catches it.
What I think about French-girl style
There’s been a certain aesthetic since the ’60s, especially in films. It’s very natural, never too much makeup. In French, we have a word: coquette (translation: a flirt). She likes to be cute and has a lot of beautiful shoes, bags, jewelry…she can be anywhere and she can make the simplest thing look beautiful: jeans, a white T-shirt, even a dinner plate. But I want women to feel free in my brand, and just be themselves, in their own style.
One of the proudest moments of my career
Creating Les Composantes, which is a mix of tableware, stationary, and other items, and expanding into the home category.
Why I’m never satisfied
We’re starting to make noise about Sézane outside of Europe and France. I always tell my team that I still wake up like it’s the first day [of starting a brand], and I always try to look at what we do and think the way I would’ve on day one. So I never feel satisfied. The team is great, I’m satisfied about that, but never about the possibilities. I’m also a very creative person, so I always look at what I could do differently or better, and I love that, because that means you can only improve.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Claire Stern is the Digital Director of ELLE.com. Previously, she was Deputy Editor of ELLE.com. Her interests include fashion, food, travel, music, Peloton, and The Hills—not necessarily in that order. She used to have a Harriet the Spy notebook and isn’t ashamed to admit it.