StyleNest chat to businesswoman, mum and founder of e-boutique Melijoe.com, Nathalie Christen-Genty.
After having her first child back in 2003, Nathalie Christen-Genty struggled to find stylish, age-appropriate and practical clothes for her little one. And so in 2007, Melijoe.com was born, and it is now one of the most prominent e-boutiques on the web stocking gorgeous baby wear, kidswear and shoes from brands such as Tartine et Chocolat, Converse and Chloé.
Three more children later and a growing childrenswear empire, Nathalie divides her time between London and Paris, as life as a mum and a businesswoman. StyleNest caught up with the stylish Parisian to find out just how she developed such as successful business (whilst bringing up four small children no less), what kidswear trends we should be looking out for this spring, and where she loves to shop, eat and drink in the French capital.
We’re huge fans of your gorgeous online chrildrenswear store Melijoe.com here at StyleNest. Tell us a little about the site and how it came about.
Before I launched Melijoe.com it was a niche industry that I had previously been unaware of, but like with women’s fashion I was immediately seduced when I started to follow the world of childrenswear. When my first child was born, I was really disappointed to see the fashion choices in the multi-brand shops. The clothing was simply not attractive to me, and was organised by size, and not trend, which is one of the more important aspects for me when I shop for my children. I wanted to showcase the creative inspiration behind each brand’s collections, which eventually lead me to launching my own e-boutique in 2007.
Have you always been interested in style, even as a child?
Absolutely, especially as a teenager. I would record catwalk shows and watch them on repeat after school, and like any fashion crazed teen, my bedroom walls were covered from floor to ceiling with cut-outs from Vogue and Elle. I still remember seeing Claudia Schiffer on the Chanel catwalk and an interview with Karl Lagerfeld that stayed with me throughout the years.
You’re a mum too, how do you balance business and motherhood?
I’m always running around and I never stop, but I always make time for my children. In the morning we have breakfast together, and in the evening after they return from school I spend two hours with them with no work-related distractions. With that said, there is no denying that I work long days and travel often, but I always keep open lines of communication with my children. It is important to explain to them what I do, where I am going and why I am not always at home. I teach them about responsibility and ambition; in general, children are very curious and smart and all you need to do is explain to a child and they will understand.
What are your favourite childrenswear brands?
For girls, my favourites are Dolce & Gabbana, Rykiel Enfant and Ermanno Scervino. For boys, I like Scotch & Soda, John Galliano Kids and Richmond.
As a born and bred Parisian, what are your favourite Paris hotspots to drink, shop and eat?
When I’m celebrating a special occasion I like to go for a cocktail at the Ritz Vendôme (although it’s currently closed) or the Meurice. For coffees, I like to go to the Parisian cafés on the Rue Montorgueil, and for food I love L’Office in the 9th arrondissement as well as Nanashi for their organic dishes filled with flavour. However, with four children it is sometimes easier just to cook at home. Shopping wise, I rarely shop in Paris but I’m a huge fan of Net-A-Porter, Anthropologie when I’m in London and Luisa Via Roma when I’m in Florence.
How would you describe your own personal style?
I am constantly on the run and when I am working I like to be casual but chic. When I have a meeting, or if it is the weekend I have a more refined style and incorporate a lot of high quality textiles and of course, high heels. For me, the most important aspect of a garment is the fabric; I really like macramé, laces and brocades and I wear a lot of solid colours because when the fabric is beautiful, you don’t need to add much else.
You started your business soon after your first son was born and it grew rapidly over the next few years. You’ve now got four children; tell us how did you cope with so much pressure from both work and being a new mum?
I cope because I adore my children and I adore my work. My children are my source of inspiration and energy, they drive my passion, and passion drives my professional life. As long as I have that balance, I can cope with anything. I am certainly inspired by catwalks and fashion magazines, just like anyone who follows fashion, but I don’t stop there. I draw inspiration from wandering around concept stores, museums and the city. I try to balance all aspects of my life by giving time and energy to each part, and for me I have three parts: I am a mother, a wife, and a career women. When I am at home I am a mother to my children and a wife to my husband and when I’m at work I’m at work.
Do you have any advice to readers wishing to start up their own business?
Yes, to follow your passion, believe in yourself, work hard and always strive to take things to the next level. It might sound a bit cliché but that is the key to a successful start up business: dedication, hard work and confidence.
You divide your time between London and Paris. What is it you love about both cities?
I love being in Paris because I feel safe and at home since this is my native town. I know the city like the back of my hand. But I love London because the people are very different, they are effervescent, dynamic and fashionable. They take risks with their fashion choices, which is not always the case in Paris.
What childrenswear trends can we expect to see for 2013?
We’ve identified roughly ten trends so far, including everything from florescent pop colours and neon, to jungle and safari prints. Bold colour will also be big this Spring/Summer with minty blues, deep blues, reds and white shades all coming through. Mixing up contrasting prints is also going to be huge, like putting a striped cardigan with a polka dotted jumpsuit and gold sandals for little girls, whilst the military trend is still going strong for little boys.
If you had to wear one womenswear brand for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That is not an easy question; I would go back and forth between Dolce & Gabbana and Ermanno Scervino.
What’s next for Melijoe.com?
We’ve got lots of exciting things coming up this year. We’re currently working hard to develop our website into a magazine-style digital platform where those passionate about fashion, style and design will visit not only visit to purchase clothing, but also learn about what’s new in the world of luxury children’s fashion. We want to offer a whole world of fashion, from inspiration and buying, to learning about new and iconic brands. We are also proud to announce the launch of our first print/web/tablet magazine, Travel Jam. It is a publication dedicated to a jet-set lifestyle for families who travel with their children. The paper version will be distributed exclusivity throughout the world’s most prestigious hotels a well as concept stores such as Colette in Paris, and will also be featured on our website.