Wonderful ethical and sustainable stories ~ Portrait N°2 «Balzac Paris»
For this second portrait I chose to talk about an already very popular brand in France, Balzac Paris. If I had more money on my bank account, I think I could only wear clothes from their collections. I am therefore very happy to have learned more about their sustainable and ethical commitments . Enjoy the reading !
Balzac Paris is a French brand created in 2011. In only few years, the small brand has become big. Balzac Paris is the proof that we can combine style, quality, and durability. The brand claims a sustainable, timeless and feminine fashion. But how to limit your ecological impact and produce clothes in the best conditions while releasing a new collection every month? Chrysoline, co-founder and artistic director of the brand, answered my questions.
Could you introduce yourself in few words? ?
My name is Chrysoline. I’m the co-founder of Balzac Paris. I was born in Lille, in the North of France. I live in Paris for too many years! I am a mother of two children. I did a master 2 of communication ISTC in Lille and then internships in various fields: press relations, journalism etc. I was community manager for the group Marie Claire for three years. It was very interesting.
When and how was born Balzac Paris ?
It's a friendship and family story since the brand was created in 2011 by Charles, my brother, Victorian my husband and myself. At that time, Balzac Paris was only selling made in France and customized bow ties. Clients were coming to an apartment to choose the fabric they wanted. The idea was really to offer a different way to consume. To not be passive anymore. The concept has been immediately successful. At this period, bow ties were on the rise but it was still a niche product. We thought it will not last.That’s why quickly we tried to think about a product that could satisfy everyone, men and women. In 2014, we launched our literary t-shirts and sweatshirts with names of famous couples of writers on it. It has been a big success! We realized though that women bought a lot more than men so we decided to focus on women for the next collections. We started with a team of three people and we are now 31. The team is growing organically.
What makes Balzac Paris an ethical and sustainable brand? What are the brand's commitments?
In 2014, when we started to make our clothes, we did it in France, in Paris. But we quickly realized that the "Made in France" was not a guarantee of an ethical production process. The working conditions of the employees, mostly Chinese immigrants, were pretty bad. They did not work very well and it cost us a fortune! We decided instead to go to Portugal where there is a real tradition of garment making passed from fathers to sons. In Porto area, we met factories that had a sensitivity and a way of working that were matching exactly what we were looking for. From a qualitative point of view, but also from an ethical point of view. The tailors were working in good conditions and paid fairly.
These factories decided to trust us whereas we were unknown in the textile world at that time. We were complete autodidacts. Today, we are still working with them and they are even hiring thanks to us. That’s why, in my opinion, the first big sustainable commitment we took was to build strong relationships with suppliers and make sure we grow and evolve together. It's a win-win situation. All our clothes and accessories are made in Europe. Whenever it’s possible to make them in France, we are doing it. We have a made in France sweater and cardigan manufactured from A to Z in a small geographical area in France right now in our collection. We are also currently working on a made in France sneakers but we do not want just stamped products made in France. The quality has to be good and the working conditions good as well. We finally found a good place to made our clothes in France, but it’s not in Paris.
Another important point is the zero waste dimension with our “sustainable collection” (collection responsable in French). This special collection allows us to go to the end of our fabric rolls. No fabrics are wasted or unused because we don’t follow trends. We follow our own trends so that the fabrics do not become obsolete and we can reuse them to offer sustainable collections at gentle prices.
Finally, we got rid of our shoes boxes to limit waste.
You are releasing many collections during the year, isn’t it to much for a brand that wants to be sustainable?
This is a real debate in our team. Being a sustainable brand but releasing a new collection every month, it's a paradox and that’s a shame. But It’s justified because our customers are addicted to novelty and those new collections made them go online, on our website. To counterbalance the number of new collections, we are producing each product in only limited quantities. This also allows us to see what are the products preferred by the customers. This way, the best sellers can stay all year on our website.
What materials are you using and why ?
We want to do better but we are aware that we will never be perfect because we make clothes, so we are polluting. We don’t want to lecture too much our customers because we ourselves make clothes. We just want to offer sustainable and desirable fashion every day. It goes through a selection of fabrics more eco friendly. We no longer use viscose. Instead, we use Tencel and Naia, amazing fabrics as soft as silk, made from organic wood paste. We try to educate the consumer about these materials because they are more expensive. We have to reduce our margins to while using those materials.
How would you describe Balzac Paris style ? For whom is this brand?
Our clothes are for all women. Our sizes go up to 44. We are listening to our customers, we organize workshops to find out what please them or not. These meetings are essential to our creative process. The target audience is very wide. Younger people on a low budget can afford our organic cotton t-shirts. Those who have a slightly higher budget can buy the perfect pair of vegetable tanned leather boots.
Balzac Paris style is timeless. It goes through seasons and years. We want our customers to keep their Balzac products for a long time. So it's a nice mix of vintage revisited with leathers. It's a nostalgic wardrobe that can somehow remind you your childhood.
What is your iconic item?
The Caesar (César in French) bag! He ticks a lot of boxes. It’s beautiful, practical, unique to us, has a recognizable style and it’s available in many colors and leathers. It’s made of vegetable tanned leather which means that no chemicals have been used. This kind of leather will age differently than the usual leather. It is therefore more authentic in his way of aging.
What’s the price range of Balzac Paris clothing?
You can have a t-shirt for 45 euros, which is our more affordable clothes. We don’t do sales because we want our customers to understand that the price of our products is the right price. We do not take big margins right from the start, so we can not say "we are reducing our margins to make sales". I think people have to realize that you have to pay a fair price to have good quality clothes. But on the other hand, we do something called "The sustainable" (les durables in French). Those sales allow our customers to buy items from the past season at -30% discount. These kind of sales allow people on a tighter budget to buy Balzac Paris products.
What are the inspirations of the new collection?
A new breath. Go even further in the sustainable dynamic. The theme of our last collection is being close to the nature. We did the shooting of the new collection in Scotland. Looking at the pictures, our customers are projected in a universe close to nature, in relation to the materials we are using. Our new collection is a proper wardrobe for the city, for the active working girl. But at the same time we want her to feel also good in her clothes during the weekend, to disconnect. It is a feminine and cocooning collection.
Where can we buy your products? Are you planning to open shops?
All our products are available on our website. But we are listening to our customers and we know they want to try our products. We are having a pop-up store at the Galeries Lafayette in Paris (until October 11, 2019). We are also working on collaborations with other brands but I can not communicate about it yet!
A word to convince or encourage my readers to consume ethically and sustainably?
We feel proud of the clothes we wear when we buy ethical and sustainable fashion. For the impact on the environment and also on the health of the person who washed our jeans for example. When we talk about clothes with our friends and our family, we are spreading a positive message. We are proud to wear clothes that are matching our values. We feel beautiful and there is a sustainable dimension!
I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and that you you are willing to discover more about this brand that I love so much. As always, don’t hesitate to share this article with your friends and on social media to support my work :) Thanks a lot.
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