Show me a person who doesn’t like accessories and I’ll show you a liar! Slightly annoying choice of phrase I know, but the point stands. If there’s one area of your wardrobe really worth splashing the cash on, accessories. Those bags, scarves, sunglasses and other items of delight have the power to instantly luxe up any outfit and end up paying for themselves in no time if, like me, you evaluate such things via cost-per-wear. This was a sentiment shared by brothers Guillaume and Jean Monnier who decided to ditch high powered jobs at two of France’s biggest fashion corporations and set up their own hugely successful luxury accessories e-tailer, MONNIER Frères.
I caught up with Jean Monnier to get the inside scoop on his and Guillaume’s growing accessories empire…
LPA: Tell me a little about your professional background. Where did you grow up and study and how did you get into fashion retail?
JM: I grew up in Paris and studied business at the French school HEC. I then started to work for eyewear maker Alain Mikli in New York for 2 years before joining consulting firm McKinsey and Cie in Paris. After that, I joined Danone, the yoghourt company where I worked for 7 years. I ended CEO of the Tunisian subs. In 2000 I joined Auchan to create their Internet division (same as Tesco or Ocado). I ran their business for 10 years ending with about 800 employees (auchandirect.fr ; grosbill.com).
LPA: Your brother Guillaume previously held a high level position at Dior while, as you explained, you created and developed the e-commerce infrastructure for the vast French retailer, Auchan. What prompted you to launch Monnier Frères rather than staying at these long-established, prestigious companies?
JM: Because we wanted to run our own business mixing our competencies. And in the luxury market, it is just the beginning so it’s a great opportunity to start from scratch.
LPA: Why did you decide to sell only accessories? Could you ever see Monnier Frères stocking clothing too?
JM: The focus on women’s accessories is our twist vs Net-A-Porter… and, as a specialist, we aim at offering the largest and smartest range of products. Eventually we may sell other things but for the foreseeable future it is just accessories.
LPA: As a high fashion e-tailer, Monnier Frères no doubt requires a high level of expertise in both the luxury and internet sectors in order to operate efficiently. How do you balance these two aspects of the business?
JM: My brother takes the buying part of our business where I take the selling responsibility including all marketing tools
LPA: According to your most recent press release, you and Guillaume have designed every aspect of Monnier Frères right down to the brands you sell. How do you choose which products to stock each season? Do you have an in-house buying team?
JM: Yes we have an in house buying team which actually takes full responsibility on the assortments
LPA: Do you feel that the rise of online shopping has resulted in brands to re-examining or altering their attitude towards bricks and mortar? Could you ever imagine e-commerce replacing more traditional retail models entirely?
JM: No, we see Internet as a complementary channel of distribution and a great place to advertise products for the brands. Stores will survive of course!
LPA: You and Guillaume both spent over a decade honing your skills in your respective areas of expertise before deciding to set up Monnier Frères. Do you think you could have done so successfully without having had such extensive and relevant experience beforehand?
JM: Well I am sure it helped to build credibility with investors and brands!
LPA: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs hoping or planning to launch their own company?
JM: When you are ready, go for it and take your chance! Good luck!
Love Ella. X