meet clem: the upcoming craftswoman behind simétrie’s leather bags

As a true artisan, Clem brings a wealth of experience, heart and traditional construction techniques to her practice. Simone met Clem in 2018 before she relocated to NZ in 2019, keeping in touch whilst Clem planned to move back to Melbourne in 2020 amidst the pandemic. We've had the pleasure of working with her for a short time in our Brunswick atelier before stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne came into place. We are excited to spend more time with her on the creation of future simétrie collections once the restrictions are lifted.

Whilst Clem is not able to create in the studio with us, we are taking this opportunity for you to get to know her. 

Clem in the studio

Hey Clem, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your craft?

I grew up in France in a family where women are independent, creative and very handy. Both my grandma and my mum had intense jobs; my grandma was working in the vineyards and caves of Champagne in a very masculine work environment, and my mum worked as a nurse. In their (rare) free time they would always make something creative, like restore pieces of furniture. My grandma is also a great painter and my mum would always create nice costumes for me when I was a kid; on top of that, they would assume everyday housework and stay super fashionable! 

Since I was a child, I lived in a few different places. Packing and moving to a new home is a significant part of my life, it taught me how to reinvent myself, stay curious and learn from different people; It has always boosted my creativity. 

My intuition took me to artisanship after high school; I left home and started to work in the luxury leather good industry as a “little hand” when I was 18 years old. I was [grateful] to be a tiny part of the making of a classic Chanel handbag and was very fascinated and respectful of the women that had years of knowledge and amazing skills. After two years of [the] apprenticeship, I knew I would always want to work in a creative trade, but I also knew that working in the same factory for the rest of my life wasn’t for me. I needed to master my skills and decided to continue my studies and travel to learn more. 

I have changed [companies] every few years in France, done some internships in Spain and Finland, worked in Qatar for a year and moved to Australia in 2016. [In] doing this, I have learned from the best companies such as Hermès Paris, where I worked for about three years with the best artisans. 

When I first started to work in the industry, I knew very little about the different career opportunities [that are on offer]. After working in production, I decided to focus on pattern-making skills to become a “prototypist”; this means you follow the complete process; from the first sketches, [then transforming] the design ideas into a series of samples until a final product [is created]. [The final step involved coordinating] with the production and manufacturing [teams].

Can you share with us what your role is at simétrie? 

At simétrie, I am [newly appointed to create the] leather bags including prototyping, based on sketches and verbal briefs from Simone [and] making small batches of production. When new materials are introduced [for] future collections, it is also my role to test and sample them in order to [determine] if they [are suitable for the simétrie collections]. 

The studio is very bright and well equipped; it is very inspiring to work with Simone as she is a great communicator. My favourite aspect of the job is [working] closely with the designer; [this allows me to] be challenged technically with creative ideas, but it is [also] so satisfying to exchange knowledge and skills to make a project come to life. In a small studio, you have a lot to consider too, every detail is precious: time, space, material, supplies, machinery and equipment. 

What simétrie brand values align with you the most? 

A few years ago, I decided to take a step back from the luxury industry. My wish was to work for smaller businesses, [as I believe] European luxury [brands shouldn't] have exclusivity in the [industry]. As we all have to be more eco-conscious and live a better environment-friendly life, it is important to blend high-end making with sustainability to give slow-fashion more value. 

Simone does that admirably with simétrie; her love for aesthetic, handmade, sustainability and fair work is genuine. She’s learned [how to] perfectly create products with traditional leather-making [practices] with [beautifully] sourced materials. She supports women in the business and dedicates a lot of time to [the] people that work with her, she is passionate about what she does and she always brings up new ideas as she has a wide knowledge of ethical-fashion. 

When you are not making with simétrie, what else do you create?

I am a dedicated cook, I find cooking similar to my work; to me, chopping veggies has meditative properties! Like any other creative thing, it can be a solitary endeavour that gives you reward, satisfaction and fulfillment. I also love op-shopping; when I am not at simétrie, you can find me in the marketplace, rearranging my own space or restoring furniture. At the moment, I work from home on my own creative project… It is very exciting! 

What is your favourite simétrie bag & why?

As I am a big fan of small accessories, I really like the Full Moon Mirror Charm and the New Moon Card Case. They are very unique and beautiful little objects that you can really enjoy having in your hands and play with as they are very tactile and [charming]. The leather tones, [inspired by the natural Australian landscape], are so beautiful. The great thing about veg-tanned kangaroo leather is that it gives the product such a nice feel; it is so soft and smooth and I love the way it ages. [These are] product[s] that become even more beautiful in time! What I [also] like about the simétrie collection is the traditional hand sewing on minimalist products, [which are] elevated with a touch of gold brass hardware and gold embossing.

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