During day one of LFW, Shopcade's CEO Nathalie Gaveau and myself sat down with Christine Afflelou, the co-founder of the B&C Club
at the Ham Yard Hotel in the heart of Soho.
Christine has spent 12 years in the luxury industry, and 10 years as an entrepreneur, meaning her insight into the industry is invaluable.
Christine worked at YSL beauty (By Yves Saint Laurent) for 12 years, which gave her the knowledge and skills to found her bespoke event company Paris Privè and now the B&C Club, which is named after herself and her business partner Bénédicte De Nonneville.
Having organised over 600 bespoke, luxury events with companies like Dior, L'Oréal, Microsoft and BNP, just to name a few, she's an expert on what it takes to be successful and hone your entrepreneurial spirit.
You've worked in the luxury sector for quite some time, what do you find most rewarding about the industry?
When you work in the fashion industry, you don't live in the fashion or the luxury industry. You create a product for somebody else, and I found it very interesting to work both on luxury brands' codes as well as how to meet best the local market needs. I worked 12 years for YSL beauty, and I was in charge of their affiliates, so I was travelling between the mother company and 16 subsidiaries all over Europe. I needed to make sure that people far away from the mother company understood their role, as in the luxury and fashion industry the roles and codes are very specific. For example, you put the brand signature in a very specific place, but if you even move it two centimetres, it's not the same. These details can be hard to understand, so you need to explain their importance. On the other hand, it's critical for the mother company to understand the market, as we need to sell.
My role was to define the markets to the mother company, and what the specificities of these customers were, but also making sure the brand is very strong and respected. You don't consume in the same way in UK and in Italy for example, a good instance of this was the Touche Eclat. It was the best seller of the YSL beauty range. The UK was fantastic at selling it and they invented a necklace with the product hanging. It wasn't a policy of the house but the necklace created a link with the customer. After convincing the brand, we managed to deploy this technique to other markets in a very successful way.
How and why did you make the transition into events?
The luxury industry is very attractive and I wanted the events I created and proposed to my clients to reach the highest standards. I learned a lot from the fashion and luxury industries and duplicated these techniques into my events company. Detail is the most important part of luxury, and I took this across. If you want to speak to high level clients, every detail is very important. I also learned that you have to give clients what they want, whatever the cost, because they do live in that world. I have an entrepreneurial spirit and for a very long time I had this idea to create off the beaten track events, and after 12 years in the same company I just thought it was time to make it happen!
Do you have any fashion mantras that you live by?
Natural, you have to always be natural. Even if you're very sophisticated, you have to wear it very naturally, because you always need to look confident. If you are confident in your style, then you can be whatever you like to be. You don't have to be somebody else, and you can improve step by step.
What's your personal style?
Since I was a child I wanted beautiful, good quality things. I wanted more than I could afford. I always preferred to buy with my pocket money one investment piece over quantity. Your style is an investment and it has to match your ambition.
What were you aiming for?
I have changed a lot during my life, I come from an academic background where fashion was seen as quite superficial. What was important was culture, study and literature; I was a little bit apart from my family's ethos. I think I've had several lives in my life, so my style has changed but I've always been very classical and natural.
What fashion and beauty brands are most 'you'?
I think all designers have something to offer, I like to mix rather than sticking to one designer. The contrast is good! Of course I am fond of YSL, because I know the brand well and a part of my heart is still there. I also like Peter Pilotto, Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Vanessa Bruno, Zadig & Voltaire, and so many more!
What trends are you excited for this season?
I'm fond of a style that is already in the street, this hippy-chic, boho look.
What would you advise a woman with an entrepreneurial spirit but doesn’t know where to start?
I’d advise her to wait, to be in a company where you learn the ropes and how to work with others. When you want to launch your company, I’ve already launched two, you know when it’s the right time to launch. You have to wait for the evidence.
What are your tips for people wanting to find the right business partner?
I think that it’s the most difficult part of the business, actually to sell and create products is hard but you can do it. However, nobody is perfect and I'm so lucky to be working with someone like Bénédicte, who is a great partner. My advice is to never choose just a friend, as that's the easiest way to not be friends anymore. Choose someone complimentary.
What makes your events different from your competitors?
The B&C club is a community. People like to meet each other at the events, the members are friends and they plan to meet at the B&C club events. People like to share a good moment, but it’s more a way to be together and participate. That’s what we wanted to create, we wanted something fun. The B&C Club doesn’t just focus on one area, we create 6 to 8 events a month that span across literature, art, fashion- everything! We send a programme two months in advance, and the members select the ones they want to attend. For example, events where we share a fashion house’s history, like our event with Chanel- we don’t want to take a member to just go and see the clothes, we want them to have an experience. To be part of a story. With fashion brands we like them to explain the inspiration and conduct demonstrations. Then we have other events, where it’s more cultural, like going to a private exhibition where the museum is opened out of public hours.
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