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Cool People Doing Cool Stuff: French83

Another week, another Sunday so time for the second EVER instalment of “Cool People Doing Cool Stuff“. If you didn’t catch last week’s, shame on you! No, juuuuust kidding. I know we are all busy bees. HOWEVER if you were inclined, you can read it here.

Vivian Cheng of French 83
Vivian Cheng of French 83

This week I got to hang out with the lovely ladies, Vivian Cheng and Nicole Wesseling of French83, at the flagship shop on Anzac Ave.  The brand first caught my attention earlier in the year at NZFW, where they impressed me with an awesome collection of tailored menswear. The local label then caught my eye again with the opening of the very cool flagship shop. If you haven’t already seen it – It’s a large warehouse like space with a men’s barber shop at the front, a small (but very chic) cafe area and then then menswear down the back. The aesthetic is SO cool and something that Auckland needs much more of. While Nicole (head designer of the label) worked away upstairs, I sat down with Vivian (the owner/creator) and spoke to the young entrepreneur about starting the brand and what she hopes to accomplish in the not-to-distant future.

SP: How did French83 come about? 
V: We have been around for about 3 years. We started as just online, but about a year ago, we were approached by a Harvey Nichols, a London department store to stock in their Hong Kong sore. So that was a big breakthrough for us. It kind of pushed us to open a NZ store.
SP: Wow, that’s amazing! 
Yeah, it was really unexpected thing for us! But we’re so happy it happened. It was really nice getting that international recognition. Especially being from NZ, so far away from the rest of the world.
We really wanted to do a store that wasn’t just menswear. French83 is really about the lifestyle, and we wanted the retail space to reflect that. That’s why we joined up with I’m Not A Barber. And we’ve got our own coffee space. So when people come in, they can relax and have a coffee. Men don’t tend to like shopping, they often feel intimidated. For tailored to make menswear, we need to know our customer, and for men who are already not that talkative it can get a bit difficult. This way they are relaxed, and it’s a positive experience and we can get to know our client’s needs.

french1

SP: that’s such a great idea. 
V: It’s worked really well for us, we are opening another store on Federal St in the city either by the end of the year or January. And on Sunday we just opened one in Beijing!
SP: Wow that’s so international! 
V: Yeah, and we want to keep the same concept of all NZ made. All of our juices and coffee are from here, and our cups were by a local designer.
SP: Cool. So will you stock the Beijing store with all NZ products still or will you try and be local to that city?
V:For the Beijing shop, we have got all the same NZ products, though we are figuring out the logistics still so might get some local brands in there. We are still figuring it out.
SP: Now I want to talk a little bit about you and your motivation, what is your background? Is French83 your brainchild? 
V: Yeah, so my background is actually in marketing. Our family has always had something to do with the fashion industry back in Hong Kong. My brother has a background in banking. Actually, my brother being a banker, always came into contact with suits and he found that there was a really small selection in the NZ market. He would always get his suits made in Hong Kong, and then we found a really good tailor and became a business from there. I came on board and re-branded everything to make it hip and cool (laughs). And then I bought Nicole onboard, who is our designer. She has a fashion background.
SP: Was it slow to begin with?
V: Yeah, it was a little. We started as more of a hobby business, but once people caught on to it, it picked up. Then with opening the shop, people began to really love the space!
SP: And what made you want to get all local brands in? 
V:I love working together with local brands. It’s that kiwi spirit, helping each other out and not competing. We all know how the market is going, we kind of commissariat with each other.
SP: Do you have any local brands that you’ve worked really close with?
V: Yeah, we have worked quite closely with Triumph and Disaster. They’re really great.
SP: Cool, do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs? 
V: Just to don’t be afraid to try. And utalise your networks, thinking about who is around you and be open with who you meet! You never know how someone can help you out or work with you. And if someone helps you then great, if not, then move on.
SP: That’s really, really great advice! 

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Vivian Cheng and Nicole Wesseling
french 83
I’m Not A Barber

To go along with this this article,  Vivian was very lovely to give TWO pairs of French83 monogram socks (can be unisex, I got a pair, and they are super rad) and a cool I’m not a plastic cup – drink your daily coffee in eco-friendly style.

To enter, simply make sure you’ve liked both the sans pareil and the French83 facebook pages then tag a friend in the comments! Simple as that. This will make a FAN-FLIPPIN-TASTIC for that guy in your life, or even yourself. Woohoo!

Keep an eye out because I’ll be posting a few more awesome prizes before Xmas gets here.

@sans_pareil_blog

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