- Katrien Huysentruyt |
The Olsen twins, the Rodarte sisters, Kendall and Kylie Jenner... Several successful fashion companies are run by siblings. But how is it, really, to mix family and business on a daily basis? FashionUnited Belgium spoke to four pairs of sisters who set up fashion companies together to find it out.
Ester and Hadassa DeKoning, from luxury fashion store Twïnfever
Ester and Hadassa DeKoning are the twin sisters behind Twïnfever, a store in Antwerp which offers luxury apparel, fragrances and home décor.
“We started working as models at the age of seventeen and spent a lot of time together because of that. Those were pretty exciting times, as we discovered the fashion world together. Since we had so much fun during that period, we thought it’d be nice to create something together. We realized we’d make great business partners not only because of the bond we share as inseparable siblings, but also because our personalities and skills complement each other”, said Ester.
“Things are not set in stone in regards to who does what, but each of us has a few specific tasks or projects. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to make sure the communication is always clear, that you’re both on the same page and every detail is taken care of”.
“There are many advantages to working with your sister. The biggest ones are knowing each other very well and being able to trust each other. As for the disadvantages, we haven’t found any yet!”
“We always talk to friends and family about our business, but that doesn’t mean family gatherings aren’t fun anymore. We still talk about other stuff! Sometimes we argue too, of course. But that’s necessary. Those arguments can be quite intense, but they never last long: we usually come to an agreement rather quickly and move on. We have to move on, we can’t afford to waste time with never ending arguments and awkward silences. That would be unprofessional”.
“If one of us ever decides to quit, for whatever reason, I’m sure we’d support the other one to keep the business going on her own. But then she’d to change the company’s name!”, Ester laughed. “Our store’s concept represents both our visions, hence our slogan ‘together is a wonderful place to be’. That really summarizes why we’ve founded Twïnfever in the first place”.
Alexandra and Ségolène Jacmin, from couture denim label Façon Jacmin
Alexandra and Ségolène Jacmin form another pair of Belgian twins running a fashion company together. Their denim label, Façon Jacmin, was founded in 2016. However, the Jacmin sisters are the proof that siblings don’t necessarily need to be together all the time to run a successful business: Alexandra lives and works in Paris, while Ségolène is based in Brussels.
“I never thought I’d work in fashion”, Ségolène told FashionUnited. “I studied engineering and used to work as a consultant. But I’ve always had an entrepreneurial side and that became even clearer to me when I was working at the consultancy firm. I wanted to be my own boss and start something from scratch, see it grow. That’s just who I am: I need to take risks, feel the adrenaline rush. I enjoy not entirely knowing what the future will bring”, she recollected.
“While exploring possible business ideas, I thought of my creative sister. Alexandra studied fashion design in Brussels and was working in Paris at the time, first at Jean-Paul Gaultier and later on at Maison Margiela”. But Alexandra didn’t seem very excited about the idea at first. “She didn’t really react to my question the first time around. Neither did she reply the second time I inquired her about it. However, to my surprise, she showed up at Christmas dinner carrying a few designs for ‘Denim Garderobe’, a concept which proposed a sophisticated use of denim in every piece of the collection, not just in jackets and pants. That night, we decided to embark on a business journey together. Façon Jacmin was launched half a year later, in May 2016. That was the best christmas gift I’ve ever gotten”.
“We never even had to discuss our roles. Alexandra is in charge of the creative part, while I do the rest: management, accountancy, human resources, buying, stock management, sales and so on. We have different opinions all the time. She is an artist and never takes the financial and commercial aspects into consideration. But that’s a good thing. We work through disagreements by communicating clearly and listening to each other. We are both willing to understand each other’s point of view and make concessions. We’ve become so much better in compromising because of that”.
“The best thing about working with your sister is that sisters are used to arguing with each other, we don’t see it as fighting. Maybe that would be a problem if we were working with someone else. But, between sisters, one always works things out, it doesn’t matter if you’re a bit dramatic. I may be biased but I really don’t see any cons to working with my sister”.
When asked whether the family supports their endeavor, Ségolène’s answer was emphatic: “100 percent!”, she said. “Especially our father, who is an entrepreneur himself. Our business is always the first subject we talk about at family gatherings. Sometimes we tell them we don’t want to discuss work over dinner, but the topic comes up again after five minutes. Alex and I just can’t talk about anything else! But that doesn’t bother us, Façon Jacmin is our whole life. We don’t mind it because we don’t see it as work”.
What if one day one of the Jacmin twins wants to jump ship? “Wow, I never actually thought about that”, Ségolène reacted. “Oh, I’m sure that’ll never happen”. A moment later, she said: “I think this is an all-or-nothing kind of thing. I wouldn’t go on alone. I enjoy working together, I admire her creativity and designs so much”.
Astrid and Aude Regout from womenswear label Rue Blanche
Rue Blanche was founded by Astrid and Aude’s mother, Marie-Chantal, thirty years ago. Today, Astrid works as the company’s CEO while Aude serves as its head of communications.
“We were never supposed to take Rue Blanche over from our mother, but in the summer of 2015 she asked us what we would do with the brand if it were ours. That’s when we found out we had the same ideas and goals, so she asked us to join the team”, remembered Aude. “We spent the rest of the summer studying the company and refining our strategy. We knew how tough this industry can be, so working together was the only option. By September, we said to each other: “I’ll only do this if you will”.
“Our family totally supports us but we’ve agreed not to talk about business during family gatherings. So far, we’ve managed to keep the promise. Working with family can either be the best thing or the worst thing ever, but we haven’t encountered any disadvantages yet. We understand each other so well that sometimes words aren’t even necessary. It also feels good to know we can trust each other 150 percent”, Aude ponders.
As the other sisters interviewed for this article, honesty is Aude and Astrid’s secret to avoiding or resolving conflict. “Most disagreements are based on poor communication. That’s why we always make sure to say what we mean. We find it important to lay all our cards on the table before making any decision”.
“We are thankful for being able to do this together. If one of us has an off day, the other one is there to support and motivate. It’s like a [romantic] relationship. But if one of us ever decides to step out, that won’t mean the brand is over. It would just be matter of finding someone else”.
Tinne and Stephanie Coucke from concept store Stay
Tinne and Stephanie Coucke are the sisters behind Stay, a store in Antwerp offering a curated selection of fashion, home décor and lifestyle items. The company was founded five years ago.
“As sisters and best friends, it was only natural for us to take this step together. I studied interior design and Stephanie studied event management, but we’ve always been passionate about fashion and entrepreneurship. Our parents are entrepreneurs themselves, maybe that’s why”, Tinne told FashionUnited.
“We do a lot together, such as choosing the collections, decorating the shop windows and helping clients, but we also recognize the areas in which one of us performs better than the other. Tinne is responsible for the financial aspects of the company, while I take on the creative tasks, such as social media”.
”The greatest advantage of working with my sister is that we were both raised with the same values and background. We can literally say everything to each other -- even the negative things. Disagreements are often tacitly resolved, we simply put them aside and talk about them later. We couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else. Not every day is a bliss, but in general being able to share everything with my sister is amazing. We’re excited to wake up in the morning every day, because this doesn’t feel like work. We’re living our dream, which is priceless”.
“Everyone in our family is very supportive of our business, they always ask us how things are going. But many of our relatives have their own companies too, so they understand us very well. I assure you we talk about more than just business at family gatherings, though. It would be so boring if Stay was all we ever talked about!”
“If one of us ever wants to leave? We never thought about it because there hasn’t been an issue so far. I guess we’ll decide what to do if such a moment ever comes”.
This article was originally published at FashionUnited Belgium. Translated and edited by Marjorie van Elven.
Photos: courtesy of Rue Blanche, Twïnfever, Façon Jacmin and Stay