There's no award for Daughter of the Year, but if there were, Laflore's Natacha Seroussi would undoubtedly be in the running. After stepping up to the plate at the family business by helping Paris atelier and leather goods shop CECILE & JEANNE, now Laflore, launch its first Kickstarter in 2019, Seroussi has transformed a once struggling fashion house into a multi-million dollar global brand. She's responsible for the launches of bobobark and bebebark, two leather-alternative bags with signature mat black cork exteriors, which have cumulatively raised almost $3 million from nearly 13,000 backers.
With these two launches, Seroussi proved there was an appetite for handmade goods and vegan leather. Now, she and her father, Elie, a fashion-world veteran, have introduced trolala, a premium rolling luggage trolley inspired by the golden age of travel, sustainably handmade from Portuguese cork skin and 100% recycled cotton – available to back on Kickstarter until Friday, April 22.
Laflore's success comes as part of a new wave of projects to launch on Kickstarter using innovative materials, from cactus and apple leather to knits made from algae and shoes created from repurposed coffee grounds. "Cork leather is eco-friendly," Seroussi asserts, "and will only become more popular as people move towards vegan and sustainable materials. It's the future." And, given the astounding success of Laflore's offerings, it's also very popular.
trolala by laflore
The threads of something new
According to the brand's campaign page, Laflore is a family story. Inspired by her father's 30+ years in fashion, Natacha studied art in school while also becoming an accomplished horse trainer. Later, while working at a barn in Upstate New York, she received a call to represent the family brand at trade shows. As an animal lover, she was hesitant to promote leather. "I said to my dad, 'If I do this, I need to bring a little bit of me in it.' And that meant it would have to be vegan."
This realization inspired Natacha to spend evenings conceptualizing and designing leather-alternative bags that were both high-end and functional while contributing to positive changes in the fashion industry. "What pushed me was the idea of more sustainability in fashion. If I was going to be a designer, I would need to be responsible." Surprisingly, getting her father on board with her vision wasn't too hard. "He saw that I was hardworking and wasn't giving up. He is also an intuitive person and felt that retail was changing. Seeing that online is how brands exist today, it felt right to try something new."
The company had also realized it needed to evolve. Rather than continue to pour resources into far-flung trade shows that often yielded limited results, they decided to swing big with a Kickstarter campaign. This decision was partially swayed by Kickstarter's PBC status, as well as the way the platform promotes sustainability by encouraging creators to only produce as much stock as needed for a campaign. Also, that it appeared to work for smaller brands. "It was like, 'okay, the last thing we're going to try is Kickstarter. And if it doesn't work, that's it. We're closing."
bebebark by laflore
Going live and expanding out
Like most Kickstarter creators, Natacha was both excited and terrified before her first launch, assembling a small party with family and friends to watch pledges come through in real-time. What she wasn't prepared for was how quickly success would come. "We had a screen that projected the launch. But when the numbers started shooting up, we didn't understand. We thought it was a bug in the system!"
Acknowledging her luck, Natacha is also quick to add that the campaign's success required plenty of groundwork. "First, we reached out to our communities and friends," she says. From there, it became about getting others to share online, talk about the project, and keep up the momentum. By the close of their first campaign, thousands of backers worldwide had come together to make the project a success.
Natacha and Ellie at the Atelier
According to Natacha, the design process around new products often begins in the family's Parisian atelier, where they envision and develop new samples, the process taking anywhere from six months to a couple of years. Bags are then handmade from a premium cork skin harvested in Portugal and polished until the texture is "as soft and supple as leather" (but three times lighter).
With trolala, aesthetic innovation was just as essential as material sustainability. She began looking at old travel trunks for inspiration but realized they were often impractical for jet set travel. "I felt like there was room to do something new. That's when I started working from scratch." She began reaching out to past backers, often through Instagram and social media, for input on what she should design next and what they were looking for in a travel accessory. The result is a lightweight travel trolley with multiple pockets, a wheel system, collapsable bars, and a signature bright orange recycled cotton interior. The trolala, by using sustainable materials, also cuts its carbon footprint down to a fraction of traditional rollers.
trolala by laflore
The next great adventure
"In all businesses, no matter if it's a fashion brand or something else, what's important is the values. What you will add to the world," says Seroussi, who notes that for others looking to follow a similar path, she would say, "Do not give up if you believe in your product. And if you're working hard, it's going to happen." For now, she and her team have begun experimenting with materials, including bamboo and coffee beans, and look forward to continuing to innovate and refine Laflore. "It's amazing to see what people create when they put their mind into something."