Why Priscilla Debar’s Faubourg women’s wear line feels like a second skin

Faubourg [pronounced fo-boor] is a lifestyle destination for the modern, conscious woman seeking to own her sense of self through her personal style. Founder Priscilla Debar, raised in Paris within her Togolese family, compares mass-produced clothing to over processed food – it may work in the short-term but the long-term effects are disastrous. Faubourg is anything but fast fashion. The line offers sustainably made clothing and accessories from independent designers from around the world – while avoiding the emptiness of trends – so that style and values find a natural cohesion. Headquartered in Brooklyn with a team in Paris and Los Angeles, the company is less than a year old and has already grown to a group of 10. Debar talks about her West African roots, affordable luxury, and fashion guru Karl Lagerfeld.

What first sparked your interest in creating the line?

Well, I spent a decade working in corporate environments, and while it required being creative in many ways, it wasn’t tapping into that aspect of creativity based on aesthetics and more artistic design that I’m passionate about. I’ve loved fashion since I was a child. What brought about the creation of the line was noticing that we had a choice now, as consumers, to buy responsibly made clothing, but making that ethical choice and dressing according to our own aesthetic, our own personal style, was a challenge. We thought, how can we make the line beautiful, exciting, and good – inside and out – all at the same time?

“I said, ‘I’m going to create something for people who care, make it possible for women who love fashion, but also have a conscience, to have an exciting option.’”

Prior to launching the business, I became a mom, and had several life experiences that brought about some spiritual awakenings for me, so it became very important that all my actions were aligned with my values. I learned how fast fashion is produced, which deeply disturbed me. It’s basically killing people – in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America, most of them women and children – while destroying the environment. All of this led me to a place where I said, ‘I’m going to create something for people who care, make it possible for women who love fashion, but also have a conscience, to have an exciting option.

How does your West African descent, and French upbringing figure into Faubourg?

It’s definitely reflective of the different influences in my background – there are at least three layers in my cultural outlook. I was born in France in a West African family originally from Togo, and I moved to the United States when I was in my early 20s. So all these things inform my taste and vision. I think the love for color and things that are handmade comes from my African upbringing. I used to design my own dresses – actually drew them – when I was as young as 7 years old. Then my mom would say, ‘Ok, we’re going to David, [the tailor].’ I’d be very excited because things were going to be created and I was going to be a part of that process.

“I was very connected to my Togolese culture. My parents wanted to make sure I spoke the language, and family was always around, so there was never a disconnect.”

We used to go every summer to Togo, sometimes my parents would just send me alone to stay with family there. I was and am still very connected to my Togolese culture. My parents wanted to make sure I spoke the language, and family was always around, so there was never a disconnect. I now speak mina to my daughter here in New York. She probably won’t be fluent but I do this with the intent that she too has that connection to her African heritage.

And in France, it’s just this taste, this love for dressing in an effortless way but where everything is exactly where it should be. Then, when I came to New York, there was a very strong energy, a dynamism, and the freedom to break the rules – the freedom to do what works for you and assert yourself. New York builds your confidence, which is something I hope can be felt when you look at the line.

The clothes feel very ‘human,’ almost like a second skin. What is your design ethos?

The feeling of skin, that’s very interesting, and makes me very happy to hear. It’s meant to be approachable and to respect you. It’s about you and how you want to present yourself. That’s why we say this is not about trends. It’s about owning your style and finding pieces that work for you and that are going to last. So it’s more of a natural, minimal look, not pretentious, but with noble materials and modern lines. We curate with an eye for comfort and flattering silhouettes. Our customer definitely values comfort. We do offer luxury items but luxury doesn’t have to be expensive. True luxury is when a piece is made with care, skills, and passion, by a human being.

“Karl Lagerfeld said something funny about that, along the lines of, ‘Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.’”

Once you mature enough to know yourself, to value comfort, you find the confidence to say, ‘I don’t care if you like how I look. I only care about how I feel and how I want to look.’ It’s all about keeping that mirror up to yourself and as opposed to waiting on outside validation. That’s when you realize it’s ridiculous to submit yourself to tight clothes or something that’s just not meant for you only because it’s trendy. I think more and more people subscribe to that kind of thinking but my question is, is it happening across all age groups or is it just a generational thing, say when you hit 30? Sweatpants are a trend right now, so I guess they are something comfortable that works for people of all ages. Karl Lagerfeld said something funny about that, along the lines of, ‘Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.’

Who are some strong female figures you admire?

Well definitely Eunice Adabunu, my great grandmother, is the number one. She’s the one I admire most because she’s been through a lot and didn’t get a head start in life but she made the best out of what she was given and was constantly giving back in the process. It was just her very strong will and level of dedication to creating and building a community of independent women. That’s something that really stayed with me. There are too many I admire to list here but I’d say Fatou Diome and Bozoma Saint John. I really respect Adwoa Aboah as well. What she’s doing with Gurls Talk, how she celebrates her Ghanaian roots (what she did with Burberry!), and just how real and honest she is. She’s actually helping make other people’s lives better and I’m glad to see a model with an actual voice.

What’s the story behind the name Faubourg?

It’s a destination, a place you go to be inspired and discover. The name Faubourg literally translates as ‘the outskirts of a city.’ It’s an analogy to Paris and its faubourgs, the neighborhoods immediately outside the city walls. The city has grown and now faubourgs are at the heart of Paris and Faubourg Saint-Honoré has become a top destination for fashion. We wanted to use this to reflect what’s happening in conscious consumption, something that was at the margins of the conversation has now become central. And then there’s the French influence through my background, my culture, and so that’s the meaning behind the name.

What has been most rewarding about your journey so far?

Each and every single time somebody tells me, ‘Wow, I had never looked at things this way,’ meaning, ‘I never thought I could be making a difference (in terms of buying/wearing sustainable fashion)’. When I see that light bulb appear and people realize that they can be part of the solution and enjoy the process, it’s a highlight for me.

When did you know the brand was going to succeed?

I don’t know that I knew but I knew I believed. If I didn’t believe, I wouldn’t have started it. I felt like the timing was right, a collective consciousness, maybe, was emerging.