Paul & Joe Founder Sophie Albou Interview With WWD


Why did you open your flagship in Los Angeles, versus New York?
Paul & Joe is a sparkling and sunny brand, and so it is fantastic for L.A.. The city is so magical because it's always busy. Tourists come from all over, and some are very big spenders. And my brother, who is my partner in the company, lives in Los Angeles. It just felt comfortable.  
And what about New York?
My goal is to open a boutique in New York within a year.
Your parents worked in the fashion industry—your father as an executive, and your mother as a designer. Did your upbringing shape the way you do business now? 
Yes, I learned a great deal. I was working in the fashion industry myself in the late '80s. You must learn first from a good boss. Of course, you have to have a bit of talent!
What are your cardinal rules of running a good business?
Be able to do more than just 
one thing well. You have to be curious and commit so much of yourself to the process of selling and designing. There is a lot of competition, so you have to be better than the others. You must be fair and nice at all times. There are so many different ways to make it work, but the most important thing is to be real and sincere to the people around you. You have to remind them that they are doing well and give them confidence. You can’t calculate too much. When I started, I never thought about how much money I would make.
Your label is 15 years old now. How has it evolved?Yes, 15! At the very beginning of Paul & Joe, I wanted to make only men’s clothes that were fanciful, happy, and colorful. But many of my customers were asking me to do something for the ladies. I was hesitant, because I know women's wear is so tough. I didn’t want to do it at first, but now, the women's business is so much bigger than men’s. Season after season, I started to do coats and knitwear and other areas. And years later, I was approached to do beauty. After 15 years we have childrenswear, Paul & Joe Sister, which is the more affordable line, jewelry, accessories, and so on.
What’s next?I really want to develop home. I am interested in linen, china and décor. People are now willing to make their homes as good-looking as they are. I designed a hotel suite in Paris, and we made special wallpaper, frames, linen and blankets. It was so joyous. The day we are bored, we must stop or change jobs.
In 2006, you collaborated with Target. How did that affect your business?
It affected the brand very positively, because it makes the line so much more affordable. At one point, these collaborations were considered as cheaper alternatives to the brand. But now, it's becoming almost snobbish to shop at Target!  It’s genius for the brands and for the store. If I had to do it again, I would do it with no doubt in my mind. It was in all the magazines, we received very positive reviews, and everyone is still talking about it. It allowed Paul & Joe to enter the homes of areas in the U.S. where otherwise they never would have heard of Paul & Joe.
How badly were you hit during the recession?We were very, very aware of the times, and we were so careful. And I think we actually did pretty well. We have such a big market, thank goodness. Our main focus is France and Asia, which have not been so bad.
How important is celebrity dressingThey are our number-one ambassadors. They are so important to sales. This is all very recent. You have a celebrity wearing anything at all, and if it’s credited, you have waiting lists. That’s the way it works! We’ve always had a lot of American celebrities in Paris and London buying the brand, and now it will be much easier for them.
Why are you so inspired by nature?I love, love the animals, plants and flowers. Sometimes, the color of a fish will catch my eye. Now, I am not going to tell you I am a fully organic woman. I am not a vegetarian.
Your label is named after your children. Will they join the family business?My eldest son is 18 and he loves fashion—the blogs, the people, the popular culture. He is a shopaholic. He sent me a list of places to visit in L.A.. He is going to university, so he will have years of learning experience, and after that, why not? My younger son doesn’t care as much. He cares about his friends and the girls. But my eldest son loves coming to the showroom and trying the samples of the new men’s collection. He gives me advice. I like to have him come in with his friends because they are the next generation of customers. 
The original article. Shop Paul & Joe. Watch Paul & Joe 2010 summer collection.


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