A look behind the brand…
If you have an eye for design and a desire for quality, it’s likely that you’re already a fan of ZOOBEETLE Paris. This Parisian brand offers luxury leather goods, with a focus on telling a story. Founded by the Lepeu sisters, Johanna (Director) and Elsa (Artistic Director), it’s no surprise to find this successful brand is built “for women, by women”. We had the privilege of chatting to mama and globetrotting entrepreneur, Johanna Lepeu – El Iman, right after ZOOBEETLE Paris’ latest collection was presented at Paris Fashion Week. Based in Hong Kong and Paris, the brand’s elegant designs are transformed into luxury leather goods for the modern women. Find out more about how Johanna balances a brand and family life here…
1. How did you initially get into the world of luxury design, and what continues to keep you inspired?
I am really interested in the story behind a product. I had worked for St. Dupont and Lancel in product strategy for almost 10 years, but what really interested me was the story, the values, the anchor to culture, the craftsmanship, the raw materials and the quality of products. I truly believe that conveying a tale behind a piece is the most meaningful thing.
2. How would you describe your brand and designs? Is there anything that runs across each collection?
Our products are made for modern women who are trying to cope with the juggling act. We assume so many roles as a woman: a mother, a wife, a lover, a friend, a business woman. The list goes on! Elegance, lightness, and functionality are the foundation of all our leather creations – representing the diversity of females.
3. The age-old question… How do you balance work, family, personal life, travel, and sleep?
My grandmother made me think it was possible to be perfect on every level: juggling all the roles I just mentioned. As a grown up, I realised trying to be everything was totally wrong! As Indra Nooyi says, “You cannot have it all. You need to find a coping mechanism.” My coping mechanism is based on rules:
1. When I am with my boys, I really try to be WITH them completely. Talk, play, stay present. But let’s face it, we all have moments that are more challenging than others!
2. I gratefully trust our wonderful helper (aka Mary Poppins) who takes care of the house and kids when I am not at home.
3. I’ve found an active lifestyle always helps. A healthy mind in a healthy body is my motto!
4. We understand Elsa designs whilst you develop – how does working as a team together enable your work?
Complementarity and complicity are the two pillars of our collaborative work. It is a chance to have someone by your side. We argue, disagree and laugh it all off at the end of each day.
5. Your unique styles all have unique names to match (we absolutely adore the Hong Kong specific items). Can you tell us a bit about it?
Funnily enough, that Hong Kong wallet is actually our clientele’s favourite! For the record, it was named Paris-Hong Kong BEFORE we even thought about living here. It’s our best seller item as it has one foot in two incredible cities – and so do we! We’re always keen to work with artists from different horizons, and by sheer luck, we had encountered Amit Greenberg.
6. What major themes do you hope to see take flight in fashion through 2018?
Women in power is a necessary theme on every level: from the fierce feminist to the men supporting. Whilst being the “perfect” woman is a pleasant idea, it’s unattainable. We focus on how women can find their balance by choosing some facets over others. ZOOBEETLE Paris actually just unveiled the new collection to the press over Paris Fashion Week, which ties into this: a bag created by women for women!
7. Empowering women is clearly a passion of yours, what do you plan on implementing for Zoobeetle?
Indeed, female empowerment is a subject I really care about. The entire aim of ZOOBEETLE Paris is to develop and expand its perspectives on a daily basis and collaborate massively with social enterprises. The association Her Fund does amazing work in this space, especially with the SHERO walk – we actively support them on a relatively small scale for now, and hope to see that partnership grow.
8. What three pieces of advice would you give to busy, working women, looking to start their own brand?
1. Be organised – in other words, prioritise.
2. Surround yourself with people you admire: they might have another vision. Sometimes two opposing views are both accurate.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from your network of loved ones. That’s true strength!