SINGAPORE – On her very first trip abroad, Parisian-born fashion designer Magali Pascal, then 18, fell madly in love with India.
“My best friend and I went to Delhi and trekked the Himalayas. I had never been out of France before and was blown away by the culture, vibrancy and spirituality,” she says. “That trip changed my life forever.”
From that moment on, Pascal knew she wanted to relocate to Asia. Serendipity took her to Bali, Indonesia, in 2002, where she still lives today – close to the black sand beaches in a fishing village north of Canggu. She is married to Australian Matt Neville, a photographer, and they have four-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m missing out because my husband spends way more time with the kids than I do,” the 43-year-old admits. “I suppose it’s because the brand is my first baby.”
She is referring to her eponymous label, which she founded in Bali in 2004.
Known for its feminine aesthetic and detailed craftsmanship, the brand boasts sustainability as a core tenet. The designer uses only natural, organic fabrics like cotton and silk whenever possible.
But it was only late last year, after one of her dresses – a flirty, frilly lavender number from her Spring Summer 2021 collection – appeared on the second season of Netflix’s hit series, Emily In Paris (2020 to present), that the indie label was catapulted into the global spotlight.
“We were all shocked and surprised by the attention the dress got,” she says. “It taught me to never underestimate the power of celebrity.”
It is a Friday morning and Pascal is impeccably dressed in one of her own designs for this Zoom interview.
She has come a long way since she was a petite enfant, trawling the textile shops in the Grands Boulevards of Paris with her late grandmother Josette.
“My grandma introduced me to art and clothes-making,” she recalls. “I was living on the outskirts of Paris, and she would come drive me to Paris and take me to museums and boutiques every Wednesday. She loved couture, so she’d buy fabrics and make her own jackets and dresses.”
Pascal began seriously pursuing her own dreams of becoming a couturiere when she was a fashion student at the Ecole nationale superieure des Arts Decoratifs (Ensad), an art and design university in the French capital. Her first creation was a cropped jacket.
“When I discovered I could make my own clothes, anything I wanted to wear, I was hooked.” she says.
Today, she has four resort boutiques in Bali, a flagship store in Sydney, Australia, and a presence in more than 80 countries worldwide, including well-known department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Neiman Marcus.