3 Questions for Elise Chalmin
Founder of the eponymous brand Elise Chalmin and alumnus of the TALENTS program
Elise Chalmin created her eponymous brand in 2017. What was her goal? She wanted to present clothing with an upbeat mood and in natural or recycled fabrics – in other words, a wardrobe that lifted the spirits and respected the planet. But Elise was more of a designer than a businesswoman. So to structure her project, she joined the 3rd cycle of Talents, a program directed by the Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter. She tells us about her experience.
With lockdown ending, how is the Elise Chalmin brand doing?
Despite the context, we had an incredible year and tripled our sales figures. Maybe the situation was good for us: people went out less, so they certainly had more money for buying clothes. But mostly, we worked hard to achieve those results. We opened a boutique last September; enhanced communication to make our brand more convincing; presented more complete collections; developed a collaboration with Keur Paris; improved our website for an expanded, more efficient, better performing product selection; and the list goes on. We also changed manufacturers. We had made some nice things with the former atelier, but there were details that didn’t meet my expectations and our margins were too low. Now we manufacture in Bulgaria, in a small factory that prioritizes quality much more than the one we used in France. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished recently, and that makes me want to do even more and to do it better.
You were part of the 3rd Talents program. Did that help you initiate these changes?
Above all, the program convinced me to develop tools that had seemed completely useless to me before. In my mind, a brand platform was pointless. But with Talents, I understood that it was an essential framework for building my brand and especially for continuing to progress while staying true to myself. It helped me make decisions. For example, I had been thinking about dropping prints, the brand’s DNA, to focus more on colour. Thanks to our brand platform, I didn’t make that mistake!
Additionally, thanks to Talents, I was open to the idea of teaming up with someone with a more business-oriented profile than my own. Before, I felt quite comfortable alone and believed I could manage everything. But that’s impossible. I’m now working with an independent professional – who I’m considering bringing into the company – who helps me determine objectives and the strategies to meet them. Working with her, I realised that I didn’t have all the necessary information to generate business growth. For example, our jumpsuits sold really well … but they were also frequently returned! But, since I hadn’t thought about analysing those returns, we were losing a lot of sales without paying attention. And finally, Talents helped me set better prices, they had been too low for our type of product. That’s something that changed our lives!
What motivated you to participate in Talents?
I’m a creative. I did a foundation course at the Ateliers de Sèvres, then I went to the London College of Communication. When I started my brand, my objective was primarily to make clothes, and so nothing was really thought out. My working methods were disorganised, and I didn’t have a business plan or a sense of direction. So I felt like I should get some help to set up a credible organisation that would let me – and why not? – go look for investors. I also needed to be pushed on certain topics. I knew we needed to change manufacturers, but that was a big project and I kept putting it off. When I joined the Talents program, I had expectations, but I was also able to evolve beyond them. I was coached on the problems of marketing. And, as I said, I changed my attitude about brand platforms … which means I can now move forward more calmly.