Interview with Clarent Dehlouz, Co-Founder of Parisian Boutiques and Clothing Label FrenchTrotters
12th of April, 2012
Husband and Wife team Carole and Clarent Dehlouz have built a platform through FrenchTrotters in which they’re proud to offer a selection of understated brands, alongside those that they have designed together. An idea that gathered inspiration while they were travelling the globe, this duo have put together a series of boutiques that is less about trend and more about objects that they feel have a timeless aesthetic.
We took some time to put a few questions to co-founder Clarent in aid of learning a little more about how FrenchTrotters came about and where their journey is taking them at present.
1) Since the name of the shop came from your love of trotting the globe, where are the places that you think everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime?
New York for its incredible energy and creativity which inspires me a lot. My wife Carole and I were in New York when we decided we would open our first store in Paris seven years ago. Of course everyone should also visit Paris for its unique charm. Tokyo for the biggest culture shock. And Morocco for the most impressive landscapes.
2) You come across as the type of people that don’t rush and take time to make sure everything is perfect, would you agree with this? If so, what other elements of your personalities have found their way into the look and feel of FrenchTrotters?
Indeed, we are very much perfectionists and we want to give a particular attention to each detail, whether to create a garment or to make the display in the shops. It can be quite obsessive. This requires a lot of time and patience although we always have to work on a tight schedule and deal with many projects at the same time which requires us to be fast and efficient.
An important aspect of our personalities is that we’re very curious and always want to explore new fields. We don’t limit FrenchTrotters to clothing but to anything that inspires us. We opened a kids store two years ago, we are developing household linen and selling furniture, stationary etc … We even had a corner where we sold cactus in our Marais space last summer. It’s very diverse but at the end the overall is pretty consistent and I think it gives a very personal and unique feel to what we do.
3) How many of your products that are found in your shops sit in your wardrobe also? It must be tempting to take advantage of wholesale rates, as they say in England “every job has it’s perks”.
The beauty of our job is that it consists on buying things we love, so of course a lot of them sit in our house and wardrobe. But personally I like to focus on essentials rather than accumulating so at the end it’s not that crazy. Our living space is limited so we have to be reasonable if we want to keep it clean.
4) When picking brands up that are particularly popular around Europe, how do you insure that you are providing something a little different to every other shop out there?
At Paris Level, the brands we stock are very limited in terms of distribution and a lot are exclusive to our stores. Of course, when it comes to the internet it becomes easier to find the same labels on other websites. What makes the difference is our assortment and the selection of products. We also collaborate with our favorite brands to offer unique capsule collections and products. And since we started our own label 2 years ago we have complete freedom to bring something really unique and personal.
5) A lot of the products that you stock have quite a timeless feel, what draws you to this and why do you prefer to carry objects of substance rather than those that are more “trend” driven?
We feel far away from “fashion”. Our customers are happy to come to our stores and buy products that they will still be happy to use after several years. It’s about well crafted products that have a story to tell and that become even nicer as they get older. Like a 501 XX, a pair of Alden, or an Engineered Garments shirt. Engineered Garments is part of the brands that we carry since the beginning. We were their first European account. It now has become pretty popular (and so has it’s designer Daiki Suzuki) and we’re proud to have customers that still wear the clothes that they bought 6 years ago without knowing anything about the brand but just appreciated the craftsmanship.
6) As internet sales continue to grow, how important is it to provide a memorable experience in store that offers something that a computer can’t?
The brick and mortar remains our main focus today. There is no comparison with the internet in terms of experience. A shop gives an identity to the product. The architecture, the furniture, the service, touching and trying. This is something you cannot transcribe online. People talk a lot about authentic products these days but what about an authentic shopping experience?
This being said, the internet is a very precious tool as it gives a proximity to a worldwide audience and has a lot to offer in terms of interaction and communication.
7) It’s great to see FrenchTrotters active on the collaboration front, is it generally a case of working with like minded individuals or do you seek out those of a different perspective to create something truly unique and original?
The collaborations are a very important aspect of our work. It links our identity as a multi-label store and as a brand. It allows us to enlarge our perspective by working with very interesting and creative people in many different fields. It can be with established companies such as Levi’s and Alden, or younger labels that we’ve been supporting since their first collections like Commune de Paris or Veja. It’s always a rewarding experience which indeed helps us to create unique and original products. We’ve also been collaborating with our favorite french blog, redingote.fr, to create a new online store and dedicated to french craft: labelleechoppe.fr.
8) What informed you most with your first shop in Bastille that you’ve carried across into every shop you’ve opened since?
Our only recipe is to stay true to our tastes and close to our customers. We’ve learned a lot with our first store in Bastille which we’ve just completely renovated.
9) Would you ever “globe trot” with FrenchTrotters, or is it something you could only ever see in France?
The multi-label shops will only stay in our home city, Paris. On the other hand, our label is intended to travel around the globe. We’re opening a corner in Tokyo this season at Adam et Ropé Biotop store and we will have a selection of very nice stores stocking our collection from next fall, such as Jonathan+Olivia in Toronto, Kapok in Hong Kong and Oliver Spencer in London.
10) How did the FrenchTrotters clothing line come about and have you always wanted to go in this direction, selling your own clothing next to the brands that you admire?
The clothing line was actually our first idea originally. But at the time we had no experience at all nor any knowledge in making garments. It took us five years of retailing and learning from our favorite designers before we decided we were ready to launch. It also made things easier as we had gained some credibility in the business. We were really happy to hear the very positive feedback from our customers when we introduced our products. We quickly had many wholesale requests from other stores, but we still waited two more years before we thought we were ready to open to distribution.
11) Both of you have a background in photography, how has this played a part in your life? You clearly have an eye for what looks great …
Our photography background has been essential in our development. What links everything we do is our eye for a particular aesthetic. It’s very important to have a clear vision of what you like to forge your own identity. We use our cameras all the time to create content for our websites and blogs or simply for our own pleasure. Photography is very much linked to our everyday life.
12) Are there any projects or collaborations that are underway that you can tell us about?
We have a lot of new projects coming soon: a collaboration with french leather goods Bleu de Chauffe, a household linen collection, a new collection with Veja. But our main focus is for September, we are moving our Marais store to a much bigger space next door. 200 square meters where we will feature the men and women collections and our in-house label, as well as a homeware space and a lot of accessories. It will be our flagship in some ways.