With a background in marketing, Marie Soudré-Richard has worked for the likes of Chanel and L’Oréal before moving into the world of luxury childrenswear.
StyleNest find out more about the Little Fashion Gallery founder and her inspiration behind setting up such an iconic brand. We talk childrenswear, fashion and business as well as growing a brand and childrenswear label.
Little Fashion Gallery has got a clear niche identity and fuses great design and personality wit fabulous products. What was the inspiration behind the brand?
The starting point was my strong desire to innovate. Not only was I the first person to launch an online kids concept store in Europe, but across the rest of the world too. What was amazing is that there was no competition for Little Fashion Gallery for nearly two years. The idea was to create an atmosphere, a destination in which parents would feel good and experience a very pleasant shopping experience. The name, Little Fashion Gallery, had to be international. I didn’t want to limit the brand to just one style and being eclectic is key. Otherwise, you end up with a concept that has less personality and cannot ensure. I really believe that Little Fashion Gallery has the potential to re-invent itself on a regular basis, and this is what we have done through the launch of our very first own label collection. The secret: innovation and passion.
From fashion to furniture, you offer parents a one-stop shop for high quality and stylish children’s accessories. How do you go about selecting your brands?
We started out with 14 brands and now we carry over 200. But the market has changed and the high street brands have seriously improved their design. I would love to be surprised and discover THE new brand that is truly bringing something new to the market. This is partly why we launched our own collection, in order to offer something unique that belongs to Little Fashion Gallery: the epitome of our brand at a very reasonable price. We select brands that have longevity, both in terms of creativity and their business model.
In just seven years, you have grown enormously. Where do you see the brand in five years time?
A weeks years ago I was having a similar conversation with my friend Natalie Massenet, the founder of Net-A-Porter. I think the answer hasn’t changed: I see the brand as truly global. We have created our own look and I really hope that it can become a statement.
In 2010, you launched the LFG Editions label, a home collection featuring environmentally friendly, playful and stylish must-haves and this year you also launched the childrenswear collection. Do you think the brand will remain online or venture into stores too?
This is the million-dollar question. I would love our own label collection to be made available worldwide. We are seriously considering this at the moment because for me, ‘clicks and mortar’ is the key to becoming global. But we need to take things one-step at a time. We are developing the fashion collection first and will keep it fresh by launching new additions to it every fortnight rather than limiting ourselves to two collections a year. Our efforts are focused on this at the moment.
The brand has seen lots of collaborations and capsule collections in the past. How do you go about choosing a partner to collaborate with?
I choose people that inspire me and that have a strong sense of entrepreneurship. A.P.C. is a good example where this family owned business with such a strong personality are always one step ahead. We are working on a capsule collection with the coolest concept store in Paris. All will be revealed shortly but needless to say this is a very exciting time for us.
You launched the site in 2006, what was it that inspired you to get involved in the childrenswear industry?
There was a very obvious gap in the market. I am a marketing girl by profession and in my previous life in the cosmetics industry. I learned to define a market and identify whether there is a need or an opportunity to innovate. Like I said at the start, this type of business just didn’t exist at the time, a concept store that behaves like a brand with a true spirit – that was something very new back then.
How would you define the ethos of Little Fashion Gallery?
Cool, International, Fashionable.
With cheap and quick fashion, children and young teens often seem to be dressing older than their years. How do you ensure your little boy doesn’t dress years before he has to?
I guess for boys this is easier. My son Paul is seven years old and already behaves like a pre-teen, so the challenge is more his hair to ensure that we can actually see his eyes. My other son Jacques is three and thank goodness he still listens to me. Girls clothing is a different matter entirely, but this is a lot down to their attitude more than the clothes themselves. You can keep control of what you buy, but teaching girls not to mimic adults is more of a challenge.
Do you think children should be responsible for finding their own style or do you believe in a more strict approach that they should wear what they are told?
What I do with my boys is that during the week, I tell them what to wear (more to save time than anything else) and at the weekend I let them choose and be creative. You would be surprised to see how they mix and match colours very nicely. I think that naturally children adopt a look that is similar to their parents (I am talking kids not teens).
The question of ‘look’ is more global nowadays, because children live in an environment which is infused with style. Families live differently and spend more time together: kitchens are now open, playrooms are in the middle of the living room and thanks to the new beautiful designs that are available today, this is not a sacrifice anymore in terms of the general look and feel of the home.
Describe in a few sentences, “A day in the life of Marie”?
I get up at 7am, have a shower and get dressed. Then I wake up the kids, dress them and we have breakfast together. My husband has already left at this point, but when he is able to be there, this is an even more special moment for us as a family. The nanny arrives at 8:15 to look after Jacques and I leave home to take Paul to school. My office is a 20 minute walk from home – what a luxury and the working day starts with a morning meeting with our new general manager. She has changed my life. She has structured the company and has taken over the operational side of the business which enables me to concentrate on business development and the company’s own label collection.
No two days are ever the same but most of the time I am in meetings with new partners, journalists, suppliers and other creative people. I get home at 7.30pm just in time to check Paul’s homework and read both kids a story before they go to bed. We don’t have a huge amount of time together but to me, what we do have is quality time.
If I do go out, I generally try to come back home to put them to bed before going out. The kids know the office well and are very involved in Little Fashion Gallery. I am a working mum. I am passionate about my job, I work hard but my family remains my balance. My husband works and travels so we talk a lot. Communication is key when you have a mad life like ours.
You have a variety of great brands, what’s the most popular to fly off the online shelves?
The Little Fashion Gallery own label collection became the best selling brand on the site a week after the collection went live on the site. I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The own label collection reflects Little Fashion Gallery’s values and this is what people appreciate and love. Other brands that sell well on the site are Ferm Living, which is our best selling design brand. This Danish label is lovely and very creative. Whenever they design new products, they always get it right.
Can you give our StyleNest readers any insight on any exciting projects or collaborations you might be working on now or the future?
We have just launched a range of Super Hero t-shirts with Nadège Winter who organises an event in Paris, called the Brunch Bazaar. This is the place to spend the weekend with the kids. Nadège Winter is also very close with the team behind Opening Ceremony so hopefully one day something might happen with them too.
You started Little Fashion Gallery Seven years ago, did you ever imagine it becoming this successful when you first started?
First of all, thank you – it is always very nice when people recognise Little Fashion Gallery’s success. I guess I’ve always just tried to do my best and follow my instinct at all times.
As a working mother, what do you do to relax and unwind?
We have a country house an hour outside of Paris. It is such a peaceful place, I just open the door, let the kids run around and relax by cooking or reading magazines by the fireplace. I still love magazines, the feel of paper. I guess this is why I created the Little Fashion Book, which is our printed magazine which comes out twice a year.
Other than that, I take the Eurostar and come to London for the day. Much of my working life was spent in London (seven years in total), so I need this energy and this time for me. Whilst London isn’t always relaxing, it is always inspiring and to be honest, this is the priority for me.
You have two sons, you certainly have your hands full. What advice would you give working mums?
Talk, talk, talk, explain things to them and always treat them as your number one priority, they will always be first. This has not always been the case, but now I manage not to work during the weekends to ensure for quality time. My secret is that I worked with a life coach to help me find the right balance between work and my personal life. In 2011, Little Fashion Gallery went through a rough path and I accepted that I am not Wonder Woman and that with the help of a life coach, I would save time and protect both my marriage and my family.
When you are not busy working, what do you enjoy doing with the family?
We go the countryside, we walk, we talk, we put the music on and we dance. We are lucky because we have some very good friends so we like to organise brunches and tea with them. We have just moved into a new apartment and had it completely remodelled. The kitchen, dining and playroom are all integrated into one big space with a large table in the middle of the room where we all meet so no one is ever too far apart.
What advice would you give to parents when buying their children’s wardrobe? Any wardrobe staples you recommend?
Stick to practical pieces and less is more.
You obviously have a creative flair, what do you do with the little ones to help keep the creativity alive?
I ask them what they like, I challenge them on colours, on their taste. When it comes to food, we cook together to encourage them to taste new things. We travel quite a lot as well which is very stimulating for them.
Paul is naturally creative and is always thinking about new ideas and inventing things whilst Jacques is still small but he has his own taste. The most natural thing to do with him right now is to teach him diversity through books: from traditional books to the lovely Anorak magazine, there is room to encourage their creativity.
Where are your favourite boutiques and places to shop around London?
Elias and Grace and Caramel Baby & Child of course.
One of my personal obsessions is Dover Street Market. The place is edgy, different and very conceptual, I love this kind of atmosphere. I think stores like Wolf & Badger are also very exciting, the way they showcase new and up and coming designers who don’t have the budget for a shop space in Central London. Bluebird on the King’s Road is always very inspiring too and in terms of design I love Scandinavian furniture and homewares so always pop into Skandium on Marylebone High Street when I’m in London.
How would you describe your style?
Minimalist chic (this is what English people use to say about me when I lived in London). I am obsessed with brands like as A.P.C., and Alexander Wang as well as the recently launched & Other stories. For shoes, Church’s are my favourite, so boyish, minimalist and chic. When I go for something girly I can be completely extreme and go for a Vivienne Westwood dress so my style is very eclectic.
Any tips on how to holiday pack for the kids?
It depends on where you go, but the most important thing is to relax. This is the time to let go when it comes to style, as kids are naturally chic anyway. UV protective t-shirts are a must as well as lots of t-shirts. I wouldn’t pack too many shorts as kids tend to spend most of their time in swimming trunks anyway.
For girls, I think jersey dresses are ideal as they are lightweight and can look smart enough for a restaurant. And don’t forget a good hoodie in case it gets chilly. I think kids should wear hats when out and about in the sun and we have three types of straw hats in our own label collection which are great for holiday. Two that are quite girly and the other style which is perfect for boys. They are also the perfect way to complete a summer outfit.
What’s your motto?
Have convictions, but don’t hang onto principles – let life change your mind.
Click here to visit the online children’s boutique www.littlefashiongallery.com.