It was five minutes before I had to log on to a Zoom call, and all I could find was a lumpy, oversized gray cardigan to wear over my Minnie Mouse shirt. For the months I’ve spent conducting interviews from home, I have yet to fine-tune my wardrobe for our new normal (cue the collective sigh). Comfort is the only factor I consider when rummaging through my drawers in the morning, and I often forget that the array of Disney shirts I’ve collected over the years isn’t the best option for when I have to appear on-screen.
Phoebe Tonkin, however, was more than ready for our video conference. Dressed in a bright-red cardigan, she accessorised with bold gold jewellery. And I wasn’t at all surprised: The 31-year-old actress—best known for her roles in The Vampire Diaries and its spin-off series, The Originals—is a Chanel ambassador. She was also calling from her home in Los Angeles to discuss the launch of Lesjour!, her new fashion label that is perfectly suited for the era of biz-leisure.
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Lesjour!, which is a play on the French phrase les jours (“the days”), began percolating in Tonkin’s mind nearly two years ago. Having immersed herself in Chanel’s atelier and wanting to start an endeavour outside of the precarious entertainment industry, she set out to create a line that reflected her chic, laid-back style. While in quarantine, she realised the pieces she was envisioning had started to become the standard for those working from home, so she “pulled the trigger.”
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Along with Tonkin’s red cardigan, Lesjour! offers six sets of coordinating wide-leg knit pants and roomy tops, all made from EcoVero, a sustainable fabric made from wood pulp, and retail for US$198 per piece. For Tonkin, the garments are meant to be hassle-free go-tos worn every day of the week—hence the name. Lesjour! takes the guesswork out of finding that one outfit that will work for a variety of situations: sending work emails from your couch, nipping out to the grocery store, or—if you’re like me—constantly hopping on a Zoom call.
Ahead, Tonkin tells BAZAAR.com how she founded Lesjour! and where she sees the brand going beyond the pandemic.
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What is your fashion background?
I have been on and off modeling since I was 17 years old. My fashion background has been on the other side. And through acting, I’ve learned so much from all the designers that I’ve worked with in various capacities. I’ve worked with Chanel for the last few years. I’ve been able to go to the atelier, which has been such an incredible learning experience.
How would you describe your personal style?
I feel like I’ve had the same personal style for about 10 years. I’m happy just in a sweater, jeans, and ballet flats. I feel like I’ve just always kind of had that classic style.
Where did the idea of Lesjour! come from?
About two years ago, I started toying with this idea because I wear a lot of sweaters. I had this big Pinterest board with thousands of photos on it too. Then, during quarantine, I pulled the trigger. I think everyone’s been getting creative and thinking about what else they are capable of doing. And I’m primarily an actress. And so this was born out of—I wanted to be in control of my creativity a little more and be in control of my business.
I’ve always looked up to not just actresses, but businesswomen. I think Jessica Alba is just incredible in terms of what she’s done with the Honest Company, bringing organic products to households.
What is the ideal quarantine uniform?
I was in my house, living with my boyfriend, and we didn’t have any real space for us to be separated. So I was taking most of my Zoom meetings, propping up my computer to look like I wasn’t sitting in bed. Every day, I was just wanting to put on something cozy, but that could also work for professional meetings.
I wanted something that was universally flattering and comfortable. I feel like sometimes we sacrifice chicness for something too structured and uncomfortable. I wanted something that felt like sweatpants, that was cozy, and that you could lounge in, but that also felt elegant and elevated for Zoom calls, or maybe a socially distanced barbecue or cocktail hour on someone’s patio. That’s where Lesjour! was born, blending those two worlds together.
Where are the clothes made?
What’s great about Lesjour! is that everything is quite contained. I knew exactly what I wanted these pieces to look like, so I found a manufacturer in Los Angeles, which is where I’m living right now. We’re not outsourcing fabrics from other countries. Everything is made downtown in Los Angeles, and cut downtown in Los Angeles, and designed here at my house.
Why is it important that Lesjour! be a sustainable brand?
Lesjour! just happens to be sustainably minded, but we don’t want it to be a sustainable brand. It should be a given that any brand in 2020 has this business model. We want to do the homework for the consumer and for them to focus on finding something that they feel and look great in.
I think anytime if you’re bringing something new into the world, especially in 2020, you really need to be conscious of what fabric you’re using, what kind of materials you’re bringing into an already overwhelming amount of waste on this planet. The fabric that we’re using is called EcoVero; it’s a sustainable fabric that’s made of wood pulp and it’s super innovative and super regenerative. And because every time a tree is cut for this fabric, another tree is planted. That is one of the most important elements of starting my brand.
Also, all our packaging is all compostable. We’re not really using any hang tags or pins. We’re just trying to eliminate as much unnecessary waste as possible. Whether it’s the inside bag or the outside bag, all of it is compostable and recyclable. So all that homework is just done for everyone before.
How do you see Lesjour! moving forward?
There’s six pieces, six styles, and three colors to start with. Then, every six weeks, we’re going to drop a new color. The plan is to eventually change up the styles, maybe look at different fabrics as well, but start with this idea of sets and suits. It will always stay as these sets that you can mix and match.
I wanted to create something that seamlessly took you throughout your day and, hopefully, will take you throughout your day when, in the near future, the pandemic is over. You could wear this to the office one day when we’re all back at work, and then throw on a pair of heels and have a nice date night with your friends or your partner. But for right now, during the pandemic, it is more about being at home, but feeling put together and chic.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US