This Women’s History Month, we’re putting a well-deserved spotlight on female founders in the fashion, beauty, and lifestyle space. Next up, Laure Heriard Debreuil, The Webster’s founder and creative director. Since opening the doors to her first boutique in Miami in 2009, the retail premise has revolutionized how we shop—and discover—brands and trends, thanks to her approach to merchandising. Having cut her teeth at the likes of Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent in Paris, Heriard Dubreuil is undeniably fluent in chic. The Daily caught up with the retail maven to hear the backstory and what the future holds.
Did you always know you’d pursue fashion?
Growing up between Cognac and Paris, I always had a love and appreciation for fashion, but ultimately my dream was to be a nose. I have a keen sense of smell since at a very young age which was further refined by my father and our family business. I quickly learned that creating fragrances is a much longer and slower process, which for a person who is constantly moving at a rapid speed wasn’t the best fit. When I was studying in Shanghai, becoming fluent in Mandarin, I decided to switch gears and focus on fashion, specifically in the merchandising side of the industry.
You studied at FIT in the late 1990s. What was this time in NYC like?
The energy was truly unparalleled! A constant source of inspiration with something new, beautiful, or exciting popping up all over the city at all times of the day. The art and fashion scene was in its prime, met with an overarching nonchalant that exuded the ultimate cool factor.
You began your career at Balenciaga and YSL. What did working for such major brands at a young age teach you?
While working for these iconic brands was such a dream opportunity and an honor to have as a career starting point, I was even more fortunate to work for and have incredible mentors like Nicolas Ghesquière and Stefano Pilati to learn from. It was a true 360-degree learning experience, seeing how this thread connects all of the departments together to bring to life the season’s vision. To this day, two key points have become driving forces throughout my career: No detail is too small that it should not be focused on, and the power of a highly curated selection is vital to the success of a client experience.
Fast forward to 2007 and you moved to Miami to open The Webster. Why Miami?
My love for Miami stems from a fateful and spontaneous trip to Art Basel many years ago! Arriving from New York with nothing but winter work clothes, I was in complete shock that a city so rich in culture and an ultra-chic vibe didn’t have the shops to match. We set out to create the ultimate retail experience that defied the odds that brick and mortar were obsolete. My instinct has always been that shopping should go far beyond just transactional; it should be an experience from the moment you walk in. From service, curation, and environment, each factor was thoroughly thought-out to the fullest to appeal to and meet the needs and wants of our clients. I created The Webster to be a place that inspired and made people dream while at the same time they were as comfortable as if they were shopping in their best friend’s closet.
The Webster is known for its eclectic mix of emerging and established designers. How does a brand captivate your attention?
It has to strike an emotion at first glance! We love pieces to be bold, bright, and daring. Part of knowing it’s a fit for The Webster is an instinct; the other is the connection that we have with our clients. The relationships with our clients are highly developed and personal, that they are constantly on our minds when we go into the market. The way we uniquely merchandise our stores by color and mood is another major factor, as we heavily way what the brand will add to our storytelling for the season.
There are now eight locations. What has the pandemic taught you about the importance of physical retail spaces?People still want that personal and one-to-one connection that comes from a physical retail space! We have to continue to hold ourselves to the highest standard, offering the ultimate retail experience that goes far beyond the norm. My goal from day one will always be a guiding light for us as we continue to grow and evolve as a company in all aspects.
When retail businesses were forced to close, how did you keep the spirit of The Webster alive and continue to connect with customers?
As a company, we were incredibly fortunate in how we were able to navigate the year of 2020. While it presented many challenges and difficult moments, our team’s endless perseverance to overcome them was the true ember of light. During this time, we focused on two major pillars in our brand DNA; creative visual content and service. We knew that our part in the world was so small compared to what the world is experiencing that we wanted to be an escape for our clients, offering little moments of joy and beauty through all of our platforms and channels. Our stylists took this time to strengthen their client relationships further, develop an even more personal connection through digital communication, and bring The Webster experience to them in the safety of their home.
How has the past year reshaped your own opinion of the fashion industry? What changes are you enacting and what are you happy to leave behind?
This year gave us all time to reflect and gain a lot of perspective on how we should be moving ahead. As an industry as whole we need to continue to approach our business with the highest level of thoughtfulness. We are unified by a love of art and creativity that is fashion and this would not exists without diversity. As a product based industry, we need to be taking every step to review what our impact is on the world itself, implement sustainable practices and promote strategic business plans like rethinking the fashion calendar and lengthening full price windows.
What’s your favorite thing about being a boss?
My favorite part of being a boss is my TEAM! They are my constant inspiration; I love watching them grown within their own careers, challenging themselves to take on new initiatives, and watching their creativity come to life. It is truly one of the greatest parts!
You’re a Bof 500 member–what are some other career highlights you can share?
Some major career moments for me include the amazing large-scale partnerships that we have been able to create in just a short amount of time of being open. The Target collaboration, which gave me such an ‘American dream’ moment, and the pop-ups with Le Bon Marche and The Ritz had a very full circle feeling. Being selected to be a jury member for the LVMH Prize is another highlight. There is genuinely no higher honor than being entrusted to help empower and champion these new talents whose designs are the reason we fell in love with fashion in the first place.
What’s your own style like these days?
My style at the moment is luxe loungewear and knit sets, but I am very much looking forward to getting back to dressing up…some miniskirts and mules for sure!
Did you invest in any pieces in the last year that you’re excited to now wear?
Bottega Veneta heels and The Row’s zipped boots.
What do you hope 2021 holds for you professionally and personally?
I am looking forward to growing our private label line LHD and opening our first international store this summer… more on that to come! Personally, I am looking forward to watching my children grow in their new stages of life and actually getting to experience their home of California, which we moved to right before the start of the pandemic. Ready to travel on both accounts, physically explore and take in the beauty of new countries and cultures.
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