You are actually a trained lawyer. How did you get into fashion and how did you find your first shop in Paris, in Rue Etienne Marcel?
When I worked as a lawyer, I discovered a creative side in me that I had not lived through. I wanted to beautify women rather than fix the ego or the financial problems of other people. So I saddled up and became a buyer. My father had bought this boutique in Rue Etienne Marcel, in the middle of Paris, which I was allowed to use. That was 17 years ago.
What kind of fashion did you offer at that time?
During an internship in New York, I discovered American fashion. The style of the New Yorkers was much more daring than in France: they mixed vintage with pop-colored parts or an ethnic look. That inspired me very much. So I brought labels like Dosa, which takes great care of craftsmanship, or a cool surfboard label from the USA to Paris. I was the first to have such a fresh and colorful mix on offer that time. You have to know that back then the boutique was surrounded by the great designers of the 90s, such as Joseph, Girbaud, Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto. What I offered was simply something new.
Are US brands still the heart of your offer today?
No, there is no longer a priority for brands from a particular country. My shop is about making women dream and giving them a very selective offer. I am dressing a versatile woman. How I am myself. For me, this is a woman who is once dressed sober and pure, once sexy, in summer rather colorful, imaginative and a bit bohemian. In my view, women should be able to dress according to their present souls' situation. But I have to admit that also I am very inspired by my customers. I think of them when I assemble the assortment.
Are there any specific strategies for selecting brands?
My strategy is to have designers who have a real creative statement. It cannot be a label that only follows the trends or copies others. The brand must bring something new and have the potential to persist in the long term. Like Ulla Johnson or Forte Forte, which we have been offering for over 12 years now. Within the boutiques, it is important to me that the brands are not in competition with each other. But above all, rarity is very precious, so the customers will find something that no one else has - that is very important for me.
Where do you find these brands today?
I still go to all the fairs during the fashion week period in Paris, New York, sometimes also London and Milan. But I find there less and less. The cool new designers are now more and more in the showrooms. This has shifted. To find some real pearls, you have to go through a lot of places. Take the fair Coterie in New York: there are, 15,000 exhibitors. But when I walk through the stands for eight hours, I usually find something.
I travel a lot and come across new brands. There are also labels that are coming to me. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a very specific look and then I look for it until I find the suitable one. In fact, I've accumulated a lot of experience over the years and find such brands much faster than before.
You have now four shops, two in Paris, one in Marseille and one in St. Tropez. Do they all offer the same selection?
No, on the contrary: every boutique is different and the offer is tailored to the clientele and the place. In St. Tropez I am very concerned about spontaneity and the mediation of a holiday mood in the south. At the chic Avenue George V in Paris, I can take higher risks regarding the price. The range is proportionally more expensive because the clientele has more purchasing power. And in Marseille, my hometown, the shop is the largest. Here, I can give full scope to the concept.
Your main business in Rue Etienne Marcel is rather small.
I agree. I think they are only about 40 square meters. But size is not important to me. I always looked for a good placement. And this is true for all my four stores.
What about the interior of the shops?
The decoration is constantly changing. The red thread are light beige tones. The shops should be chic, but full of sun. Here, my origin from South France comes through. A certain bright lightening in the stores is important for me. But each boutique should keep its own charm.
Why have you launched an e-shop about one and a half years ago?
I think it is important to be on the web as a boutique owner because the customers are also more online now. The e-shop is the extension of my boutiques. And a perfect medium to communicate with the clientele. There, we present designers who do not have their own website or are little known, such as the Lebanese designer Mira Mikati and her pop-infantile fashion. The customers discover it online and then come eventually into the stores. Besides, I'm having a lot of fun working on the website. This is like a new, own store: I can create my own looks and trends there.
Do you also use the online store to export beyond France?
We deliver throughout Europe and already have some international customers online.
We want to expand this, but it takes a long time. Nevertheless, I have the impression to reach customers beyond France who understand my fashion selection. This gave me a new spark.
With the flood of new flagship stores, which made things more difficult, you are one of the few multibrand stores that still survives in Paris.
The arriving of flagships is – in my opinion – not at all the problem. Very difficult for
multibrand stores are the frequent private sales and special sales. This is a real problem, especially in Paris. I find this very unfortunate because our work gets banalized and these sales send the wrong message to the customer. Flagships, instead, are for me a completely different concept, which I do not want to compare myself with. They want to show as much as possible of one brand and I want to offer mainly rare items and selected things. Therefore, I am not questioning the idea of multi-marketing. I work concentrated and with full conviction at my company and would like to be as close to my clients as possible.
How important is the service for a multibrand concept such as By Marie?
Service is the heart of our profession. You have to know the customers very well, be able to listen to them and remain in constant dialogue with them. Only then, the clientele feels comfortable in a shop. I have the impression that my team has fun working here, likes our assortment and that they understand themselves as part of our shop adventure. Only with this attitude, you can really provide a great service to the customer.
One last question: What is the bestseller at By Marie?
This is constantly changing. I also have an own line and there, the cashmere items sell quite well. For this summer I think that chic city pajamas are a real trend. Yes, I think they will sell very, very well.
44 rue Etienne Marcel
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