Le Colonel’s colourful story started ten years ago, when partners Rémi and Clemence Duboquet turned the quest of finding the perfect bowtie into a full-fledged business. Le Colonel offers a fabulous and joyful array of men’s bowties and accessories (and some women’s fabric accessories too!) all hand-made in the brand’s small atelier in Lille, France.
Today, the business is managed by Clémence’s brother Valentin and his wife Clementine; a husband and wife duo dedicated to bringing the vibrancy of Le Colonel’s accessories to your wardrobes.
In this latest Success Worldwide interview, #TeamCoco caught up with Valentin and Clementine, who reflect on Le Colonel’s milestone anniversary, discuss its ‘This is How We Do’ approach and reveal the secrets to choosing the perfect bowtie.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. How did Le Colonel come to be?
Le Colonel was created 10 years ago when founder, Rémi Duboquet couldn’t find a bow tie to his taste. So, Rémi decided to buy a sewing machine and make his own. His partner, Clémence started to get fed up as their flat gradually filled with bow ties, and so created a blog to sell his pieces, which quickly took off. And so, Le Colonel was born! Le Colonel is now headed up by Clémence’s brother, Valentin and his wife, Clementine.
Le Colonel is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year. What does it feel like to reach this milestone as a business owner?
We’re extremely proud of everything we’ve achieved over the last ten years, and can only thank all of the people who have believed in us and supported our bow tie dream. It’s been a tough couple of years with the pandemic, in particular for small businesses like ours, but we’re proud to have survived and are looking forward to the next 10 years ahead.
What is a day like in the Le Colonel workshop in Lille?
The workshop kicks off early, started by a quick coffee, croissant and gossip all together in the shared kitchen. Victoria, our production manager will check the bespoke orders received overnight and brief the workshop accordingly. Then they’ll normally split off into teams, one for producing stock for our boutiques and online store, and the other for tailor-made products. We all also share lunch together around a huge table in the kitchen and play darts on the darts machine afterwards
What is the secret to choosing the perfect bowtie?
Ooh, we have so many tips! Consider your shape/size – if you’re more slight, then a slim or diamond shape might suit you better, whereas if you’re taller or more well-built then you’ll pull of a classic shape with ease. Also, think about the rest of your outfit. If you’re wearing a plain suit, why not go for a patterned bow tie? And vice versa… It’s also nice if the colours in the bow tie pick up another element in your outfit, such as socks or braces.
Sustainability is a core part of Le Colonel’s ethos. Could you tell us more about your ‘This Is How We Do’ approach?
We felt it was time we shared more about our expertise with our customers, including our passion for a no-waste approach. It’s amazing how many of our customers don’t realise we make everything by hand in our little workshop in Lille!
So, we launched #TIHWD to help our customers transform beloved garments into new pieces that they can love all over again. Customers can either upcycle these pieces for their own enjoyment, or donate the upcycled accessories to our TIHWD collection – sold online. 100% of the profits from the sales of this collection go to Good Planet Foundation.
What sets Le Colonel apart from other accessories brands today?
All our accessories are made by hand, with love in our little atelier in the north of France. We also have a really wide range of stunning fabrics, with hundreds of different colours and motifs – so you’re sure to find something you like. And even if you don’t, we can tailor-make accessories exactly suited to your taste, or even in your own fabric if you wish.
I would highly recommend visiting one of our boutiques if possible, where you’ll find a rainbow wall of bow ties – a real sight for sore eyes!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an entrepreneur so far?
Probably building up and honing our production model so that we were able to keep up with the demands of our growing business. It’s also a constant battle against mass production and fast fashion, where very low prices give people a skewed idea of what is really involved with making quality garments and paying workers a fair price.