3 Questions for Lise Guitton
Founder and creative director of Inouïtoosh
The Inouïtoosh accessories brand, known in particular for its sublime scarves and based in Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme, will soon change names. By becoming Inouï Éditions, the brand will make a clearer statement about its artistic savoir-faire. The name change reflects the brand’s year participating in Bpifrance’s Fashion & Luxe Accelerator Program. We checked in with founder and creative director Lise Guitton for a look back on the experience that helped her navigate turning points and confirm choices.
You were part of the first cycle of Bpifrance’s Fashion & Luxe Accelerator Program. What did you gain from it?
The year-long support program – which just finished – came at the right time! Like all managers of SMEs and brands that grow quickly, I keep my nose to the grindstone. I’m always on the go and don’t take enough time to reflect. So I was afraid that the experience would take too much time and slow me down in my day-to-day activities. But the opposite was true; it gave me a new perspective. And after 11 years of responsibility, that was important. It was a real breath of fresh air, thanks especially to the quality of the leaders. They were all very different, and they covered all the essential topics: data, branding, sales, and more. It was the input needed to push forward a structure like mine, which currently includes 32 employees.
The program was an opportunity for quality debates and in-depth conversations with experts as well as business managers. All the SMEs chosen for the accelerator also had the chance to get more in-depth support on precise issues. I chose to focus on organisation and digital topics. We (I wasn’t the only one interested in these subjects, our entire team was involved) needed to make progress in analysing data, winning clients online, etc. Today digital activity accounts for 1/5 of our sales, up 50% from last season. Working with those carefully chosen specialists paid off immediately! Finally, the program also provided support in a chaotic period. During the first lockdown, our coach called us every week – a wonderful show of interest. To summarise, the program was a framework for making connections, and it expanded our network.
Did the program help you become aware of what wasn’t working or, on the contrary, your strong points?
Above all, it helped me see the business through a different prism, giving me a new perspective. It was an excellent way to innovate, find new resources, try other processes … and especially accept paradoxes. For example, I realised that it was important to nurture discussion between the design and production teams. In general, everyone in a business should talk and share ideas so that the different activities are in harmony. Stepping back also showed me that agility is, more than ever, essential. Yes, it’s a quality we’ve always encouraged, but the health crisis amplified this need for flexibility. Now it has become a priority. I also understood that in order to progress it’s critical to cultivate a work environment where everyone feels comfortable, and transparency is the norm.
Product, certainly, is central – and I’ve invested a lot in it – but now I understand even more the value of collective intelligence. I’m not saying that my business is a big family, since I detest that “paternal” angle, but I have always made trust a priority in motivating all our collaborators. That component is part of our business culture and this program helped me recognize this positive element. And finally, it was interesting and reassuring to see that the program’s 30 participants, even with distinctly different profiles and activities, shared a lot of traits and had common problems.
What’s your attitude for 2021?
We were lucky to get through the crisis in good shape, thanks to our three distribution channels: our boutiques, wholesale, and digital. When one did poorly, another compensated. In addition, this period was a chance to strengthen our ties and loyalty with our distributors. We did what we could to support them during the hard times, and they appreciated it and are all the more ready to work with us in 2021. This means we’re heading into the future with serenity as well as a lot of energy. So we’re changing our name! Inouïtoosh is becoming Inouï Éditions. This project has been carefully considered, and it’s coherent with our history, which is closely intertwined with art. We have become a publishing house for art that uses a range of mediums. This will let us increase and better organise our product offer. For example, we’re going to launch a more luxurious line of leather goods in Italian leathers. Plus, one of our Parisian boutiques is on the rue de l’Odéon, in the publishing district. Everything points to this name.
This change goes along with our desire to be increasingly mindful of our suppliers. We didn’t choose the Made in France option to produce our scarves and bags since we’re passionate about Indian weaving expertise. We pay close attention to whether the ateliers we work with respect both human rights and the environment. We maintain loyal relationships with them; some have worked with us for over 10 years. During the lockdown, we further strengthened our connections built on trust and solidarity with them as well. It’s sure that in 2021 we’ll reach a new stage.