merylParis-based Meryl Jeanneau has been doing high fashion embroidery for over eight years working for couture houses like Chanel, Dior or Gaultier. She recently launched her own business repairing vintage clothing. Here she shares her experiences as a vintage entrepreneur.
When did you set up your business ?

Meryl: I tried to launch it around last August, but unexpected health issues delayed the launch to January this year.

What profession or industry did you work in before?

Meryl: I had worked for the high fashion industry since 2005. I did embroidery, first at Maison Lesage, then as a freelancer.

What was the main motivation behind turning your passion for vintage into a business?

Meryl: Children ! After I had my first son, I began to work on my own, so I could be both a mother and a worker, it was more flexible this way, and when I had my daughter about 1 year 1/2 ago, I thought it was time for me to quit the crazy world of high fashion, I felt I didn’t have the energy anymore to spend sleepless nights before each fashion week.

What did you do in preparation of launching your business?

Meryl: Well, my portfolio has been the runways! In terms of sourcing suppliers, there aren’t many in Paris, actually, there is one for the beads, sequins, crystals and the like, one for the feathers, one for the flowers, one for the millinery materials etc. I decided not to buy fabric flowers on eBay – the quality doesn’t satisfy me. I only get them from Guillet who make the camellias for Chanel). I went around all the showrooms and workshops to get quotes and information on what’s available, I asked to get into the storage rooms to find vintage beads and celluloid sequins – it was more expensive than expected but never mind.

Did you have a business plan?

Meryl: Not at all ! I just tried to figure out how much I could charge for this or that, did the maths and just said “oh yeah, that could work”.

I used to have a trainee, but now the position’s available ! My husband-to-be helps me a lot too, he does the photos, the weekly schedules and gives me great advice on how to communicate, he’s my artistic director of sorts. Since this helps getting contracts and clients, I can say he’s my associate at some point.

What was the one thing you wish you would have known before launching your business?

Meryl: That you have to do a business plan! Not necessarily because of the costs (unless you plan to rent a place, or get employees from the start), but because you have to know from the start who will be your customers, and define precisely who are the people you want to appeal to. I began thinking I could work with people just like me, but I’m not good at doing ready-to-wear and cutting costs, so I’m aiming to do something which is more about luxury.

Have you ever had a moment where you felt so fed up you wanted to give it all up?

Meryl: Ah yes, sometimes, when it’s 11pm and I’m still mending an old dress which is almost falling to pieces, I just want to throw it all away, but it never lasts long. Passion first. It’s also hard to cope with bossy people, especially when I was ill, but it’s only a minority, and I carefully choose the people I work for/with. That’s my very own luxury.

What does an average working day look like for you?

Meryl: It’s very different from one day to another. I usually wake up and start right away, in my pajamas, to plan my day. I often work with the baby strolling around, and it’s okay. Sometimes I go out to buy supplies, meet a client in a lovely tea shop or help a bride-to-be with her vintage dress. On weekends I go to the flea market to see if I can find vintage beads for dresses or antique silk threads . I also teach embroidery, so I often have my lovely students around at the workshop.

What would be your three top tips for anyone wanting to launch a business in your industry?

Meryl: Don’t limit yourself to the retro community, there are plenty of people out there who aren’t into vintage, or they weren’t until you showed them how awesome it can be, especially if you aim at high-end customers.

Don’t be afraid to say “no”. No, I can’t lower the price, no I can’t do it for next Monday … It’s your business, and you’re going to spend a lot of time on it, so YOU are the boss, and you must be comfortable with all your decisions.

Spend time out with family, friends … Don’t ditch your social life !

Are there any suppliers or people you’ve worked with you would want to recommend?

Meryl: Vintage Galerie, the shop I work the most with at the moment. By appointment only, there is no shop (but you can buy online). Elisabeth always finds great things, and each dress can be fitted to measure.

Estelle Ramousse –  she’s a great milliner, she taught me a few things and we have a similar vision on our work.

Guillet for the fabric flowers. Once you worked with them, you can never go back. They’re supplying Chanel, Dior, Valentino but anyone can buy from them.

If you have a family – is harder or easier juggling both now that you run your own business?

Meryl: It’s way easier ! I don’t need to hire a nanny, the baby is always with me, and I could breastfeed as long as I wanted. I sometimes take her to appointments, and Bruno my fiance is helping me with her as well. Noe (the big one) is at school so I can go pick him up whenever I want to. It’s much more flexible.

What are your future plans for your business?

Meryl: As I said, I’m not very happy with ready-to-wear, so I’m ditching this part, and I’m going to make high-end repros, especially wedding dresses, which are harder to find above a size 42. Unique pieces only, which can be made to measure. Once I make one, I won’t make another one. And I hope I can develop the workshops/lessons, it’s great to teach !

 

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