Beyond the Trend with Femme Fatale Founder Gaelle
At the consumer level, sustainable fashion and having a more eco-look at your closet might not come easily. However, as one of the leading industries for waste and pollution, we’re seeing more brands turn towards responsible sourcing and approaches. Enter Femme Fatale, a one-stop shop of female-lead sustainable fashion, lead by founder Gaelle Koutou. We spoke to Gaelle about fashion, her strong sense of motivation, and her work as the Account Director for Les Glorieuses, a newsletter revolution bringing news on money, confidence, and equality to your inbox.
Tell us about yourself and what interested you into entering the tech world? You started in fashion?
My name is Gaelle, and I’m 30 years old. I’m a French-born and raised in Paris, but I always felt a strong urge to see the world. As soon as I got the chance I went to Montreal to work for a street marketing agency. Then, I came back to Paris.
Growing up in France, I was always fascinated by luxury houses such as Chanel, Céline, or Hermès. I wanted to see what was behind the curtains, working from the inside. That’s how I ended up working for Saint-Laurent. In the end, deep down, I was always a geek at heart as I’m passionate about all things computing. That’s how I entered the tech world.
We’re excited to hear about your new project Femme Fatale. What motivated this new project?
Wearing the corporate suit for nearly ten years, the urge for change became stronger. So I resigned my well-paid job and jumped into the first flight. My destination was Rishikesh, a holy city in Northern India, the place where The Beatles were initiated to transcendental meditation. I crucially needed a way to unwind, and a yoga teacher training in Rishikesh seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. I was craving the ultimate culture clash.
A few weeks later, I was back in Paris. My first love, the city of my childhood. I embraced a digital nomad lifestyle and started to work as a freelancer for tech companies, such as Airbnb while using Croissant.
But Femme Fatales comes from an intrinsic desire to democratize sustainable and fair-trade fashion. My goal is to empower women, artisans and consumers. I aim to build a future-proof digital concept-store to unlock the real power of fashion. In the era of fast-fashion, we tend to forget its purpose, its essence. Fashion is not only about cuts, about shapes and fabrics enrolling the bodies. Fashion is a symbol. It reflects times and eras; it stays as the vestige of civilization at a certain point of time.
What has been the most eye-opening in starting Femme Fatale?
First, I found something that matched my values and vision of the world. At last, I am able to use my skills for the public good. I was always passionate about gender equality and women’s empowerment volunteering for non-profit such as TEDxAmsterdamWomen. Second, being a small business owner has its own perks, the world is your office, and you can work how, where and when you want. It requires, of course, a lot of self-discipline, but the flexibility it brings into your life is priceless, especially for someone who just left a corporate environment.
Can you tell us more about sustainability and the fashion industry? We see it as a growing trend but where can we start as consumers?
Fashion changed over the past decade. Exit, the iconic, long-lasting outfit, hello fast-consuming looks. The amount of fast-consumed clothing is increasingly growing. While today's objects of our affection are announced to become tomorrow's trash, many consumers still ignore the hidden part of the iceberg. Behind each monthly new collection, lay pollution, and destruction. Most people even ignore that the fashion industry is more polluting than petrol and gas industry. Most consumers ignore the true price of a 10 bucks jumpsuit. What's the price you tell me? It's slavery and massive pollution.
Small steps such as wearing what you already have can help. Borrowing from family, swapping between friends or even make your own clothing are a way to start your sustainable journey.
Femme Fatale showcases brands from all over the world. What has the process been like starting an international company?
It was a challenge reaching out to by myself 150+ businesses on different times zones and pitching them my vision with nothing to start with! However, my experience working in multicultural companies such as Google and Apple helped me a lot to overcome cultural differences. I was always able to break the ice as I most probably visited the country my partners were based from.
Also, being French and based in Paris helped a lot as people are always in love with the city of lights! But in the end, we share the same goal: educate consumers, transform consuming habits and empower women.
How did you feel about being a woman entering the entrepreneurial scene or even entering the tech industry at first?
I never doubted my knowledge or my skills because I’m an overachiever and my track record speaks for itself. However, now reflecting on my experience in the tech industry, I can tell that there were times I was not taken seriously by my male peers because of my age or my gender. Also, some employers only hire women to diversify their company, to tick a box or two, not giving them with the tools and the environment to thrive! It's unfortunate. Hopefully, more female-driven businesses will lead the way.
Are there any other ongoing projects you’re working on that you’re excited about?
Yes there is! I recently joined Les Glorieuses, a newsletter that reinvents information on women. Les Glorieuses is an inclusive project that offers a new vision on topics that affect every individual in our society: self-confidence, maternity, equality, politics.
My role is to be Account Director and I will look for sponsors for the newsletter. I’m super excited to work on a innovative service and it’s the perfect match between my experience and values!
I could not dare to believe that such a job will exist in the future when I was a little girl! We live in amazing times, don’t you think!
You’ve travelled and lived in different counties and major cities. What’s the best part of moving and really living in a new city every-so often?
I love being on the move and traveling especially through the US., New York, San Francisco, and L.A this year. What a joy it was to re-discover these vibrant and exciting metropolia! The itinerant lifestyle gives me my beat. I get bored quite quickly. I love the challenge of starting from scratch, working in my own terms, meeting news friends, strolling and exploring new cultures and ways of life. You also get to try new things. During my trip to California, I enrolled in another Yoga Teacher Training in California and got certified as Sup Yoga Teacher (yoga on paddles). Things were getting exciting again!
What’s your advice for any woman wanting to start her own business or even switch careers?
Don’t believe the hype! Starting a business is HARD and not for the faint-hearted! Especially as a woman! It has been a very helpful way to identify fake friends from true ones. When you start a business, a lot of people are projecting their insecurities onto you giving 1,000 reasons why your business will fail! You know what? They may be right but are they your true friends if they can’t support you at the moment you need it the most? I don’t think so! Your loved ones will talk about your business to their colleagues, buy your first product or even just send you a text of encouragement! Stay close to these ones!