The Golden Drops of Fashion and Design
Les Gouttes D’Or de la Mode et du Design
Angéline Escafre (DIVERCITIES researcher) talks with Adikatou Beaurepaire (co-founder, Les Gouttes d’Or de la Mode et du Design) about the association’s aims to structure the garment and fashion industries in the immigrant neighbourhood of La Goutte d’or in Paris.
The project is one of many initiatives being studied in DIVERCITIES’ Work Package 5: Governance Arrangements and Initiatives as an example where diversity is utilised as an asset, to improve the economic development of a deprived area and to promote the social mobility of newcomers.
The neighbourhood of La Goutte d’or already counts 63 fabric stores, 33 sewing workshops, five haberdasheries and 20 fashion designers. The goal of the project is to go from a niche to a cluster, by putting industry professionals in contact with one another, providing them with skills development and helping them promote their productions outside the neighbourhood. Having started the project in 2011, the ultimate aim is to develop its own Made in Goutte d’Or label.
How did the idea for The Golden Drops of Fashion and Design come about?
The idea for the project came from the local development team. (Editor’s Note: As part of France’s ‘City Policy’, each ‘priority neighbourhood’ is assigned a ‘local development team’ consisting of a project manager and several officers who help connect inhabitants with the administration and help them set up local projects.) I had been in touch with them when I started my business as a fabric seller and they helped me locate a space for my shop. The very shop we are sitting in today! As soon as they contacted me and several other shopkeepers and tailors, we thought the project was a great idea because none of us knew each other or what was going on in the neighbourhood even though we were all in the same business.
What is your role in the project and how does your background and experience support the interests of the project?
I used to sell fabric in the Ivory Coast where I come from, but when I arrived in France I started off working as a cleaner and babysitter. My experience is that it isveryhard to start your own business. When you do not have your own space, other people who are already in the business may try to exploit you. When you cannot rely on skilled people you may lose customers too. For instance, I started off just selling fabric in the beginning and I lost a lot of customers by sending them to tailors who did not do a good job. Either they wasted the fabric or they did not do bespoke tailoring properly.
Some people have dreams but they do not know how to make them happen, they do not know how important it is to invest, how to fix prices, or how to professionalise their business. Our association aims to provide this kind of assistance.
What are the main objectives of the project and can you give an example of a plan/strategy to achieve these goals?
Our dream is to fix common prices for everyone. Those that sell fabrics and custom-design clothes without paying taxes create a form of unfair competition. We also want to mutualise our means to buy machines and have a showroom for everyone. We really need this because when we have big orders we need to work a lot and hire more people for a limited period of time. So we need more machines and space.
Who are the key players (participants, supporters, target audience, etc)?
So far, there are about 20 participants (fabric sellers, tailors and designers), but the key players are the four founding members of the association, such as Luc Dognin, who specialises in fashion accessories, for instance. Our goal is to reach newcomers to the neighbourhood who want to start working in this industry.
The local authorities are very supportive, and we (myself and the other tailors) all agree that something needs to be done to create better structures in this field of activity. We also want to change the image of this neighbourhood.
What types of diversity are evident in this project?
There is a lot of diversity in this project because there are many Africans participating. But there are also French people too who do not have an immigrant background. Moreover, it is not only about sewing. There are also people who design bags, shoes or specialise in decoration. So there is diversity in terms of activities also.
Are there specific needs or gaps in knowledge or experience of the project participants and how will these be
Yes, there are great differences. Some have no idea what it is to run a business or what they are aiming for. They just do what they have seen other people doing: their parents, their aunt, their boss… So, I have had people joining the project who want to understand what it means to fix prices, to earn a customer’s trust, and so on and so forth. But mainly, most participants have an interest in professionalising their business.
The Goutte d’Or neighbourhood is known for its ethnic fashion, but with this project we want to go beyond that idea and make it more professional.