6 November 2020

And you, where are you going to hunt?

From the salvage of a vintage jacket at a Sunday flea market on the Canal Saint-Martin to the homemade eco-dyeing of cotton panties found in a wholesaler’s old stock, not forgetting the good old Bon Coin, La Bonne Pioche has made the bet of the second hand. However, when you enter the dressing room, you have the feeling that you only see pieces in the air of time… Interview with Marie Belmonte, founder of La Bonne Pioche and an experienced chinaman.

You’ve been dressing your clients second hand since 2014. Six years that it works, it seems they are giving it back to you.

Marie Belmonte : We just want to show people that it’s possible to dress 100% second hand with stylish pieces! But also, by offering them a choice, clean pieces in good condition, and with merchandising as qualitative as a new products store. We are really very far from the fripe or the traditional sales depot.

Where do you find the pieces ?

About 20% of our stock is found by us in flea markets or garage sales. We go hunting all the time, a little bit everywhere in France. All the rest of the stock is entrusted to us in sales depots by private individuals who empty their cupboards. Afterwards, we guide them on the type of pieces we take in deposit because the pieces must really correspond to the criteria of La Bonne Pioche which are quite selective.

Selective ?

Of course we have quality criteria. The product must be clean, without holes or stains. We make sure that the products are in perfect condition. These criteria are part of the conditions of deposit and when we chin ourselves, we sometimes need to put parts back in condition. This can be done by retouching, stain removal, cleaning, mending or changing buttons. Afterwards, it’s all about the quality of the material. We like natural and noble materials that last over time like wool. It’s quite crazy to see how much yesterday’s clothes were made to last while today, we have fast fashion brands that offer disposable products!

Do you only take designer pieces?

No. We mostly take care of the timeless side of the piece. We’re not here to propose very trendy pieces that will be out of fashion in 6 months. We’re really about good quality basics. The pieces can be recent, from contemporary designers like APC, Marni or Isabel Marant, or vintage. No pieces from fast fashion brands though! Sometimes they are not even scratched, we can even offer handmade vintage sweaters. What interests us is more the quality than the label.

They are brand new, ready for a new life!

When you do alterations, do you work with partners or do you do it yourself?

We try to do our best with our little hands. We now have a lot of tricks for detaching, mending, etc. When it’s a little more technical, we work with a retoucher from our neighborhood.

The retoucher is a dressmaker ?

Yes, absolutely! He’s a neighborhood dressmaker who has a lot of machines so he can work on different materials: denim, canvas from Genoa (blue jeans), silk …

Do you also have suppliers who send you clothing from time to time ?

We sometimes work with professionals who resell second-hand and vintage clothing in general. What is complicated in this case is to continue to select piece by piece with large suppliers. At the moment there is no supplier that allows you to buy this type of products. Sorting by piece remains complicated so our stock comes from all over the world. It can even be an opportunity on the Good Corner. We are always on alert for an opportunity to find stock. We don’t have a specific supplier or source to find the clothes. After that, it remains 20% of our stock.

Can anyone send you any pieces ?

Absolutely! We pre-select on photos, especially when it’s the first deposit so the girls can see what we take. Afterwards, it’s a matter of habit. Our depositors and regular customers know what we take. So the pictures are not like we would do for a Vinted ad or a walk-in closet, it’s a quick picture with the phone when you take the clothes out of your closet! But anyone can submit, we have submitters of all ages and all types of clients as well. It’s quite nice to find yourself with period coats or old suits.

What is your sales deposit system ?

We take in deposit during 3 months and are paid at the end of the deposit the parts which were sold. The unsold coins are then regularly given to a resource center of the 11th with the agreement of the depositors. They can also recover their coins or extend the deposit if we think that the coins can still find a taker. We also propose the option to our depositors who resell their clothes at our store and who get dressed in second hand to buy at the store of La Bonne Pioche with their depositor account.

You also make lingerie from new and old stocks. Where do these stocks come from ?

We didn’t want to buy lingerie from fast fashion brands and on the contrary we wanted a 100% ethical lingerie so we started to want to do the basics: panties and socks! That’s when the idea was born to revalorize old stock surpluses from wholesale suppliers. We went to look for very high waist panties 100% cotton as we used to do at the time but which are fashionable. Of course the high waist cut is back in fashion! In addition, we do not use synthetic, no elastane, only cotton which is very comfortable. The pieces are then dyed by hand with ecological dyes. Everything is handmade, in Paris, in small series, according to our desires so we change colors, patterns … We are much on Tie and Dye patterns.

Oh the beautiful yellow! Oh the beautiful rose ! All 100% cotton.

Where do you find the eco-friendly dyes and what products do you use?

We find a lot of them now. The most difficult thing is to know how to use them well. I’ve tried and it’s not quite that (laughs)! That’s why we have a specialist in the field. She makes baths in large pans. Then there are stories about weighing, fixing with salt, vinegar… well, that’s it! After, she puts the panties in her pot and there again, the number of panties is to be taken into account for the tint. It is feasible with a little practice but it is technical. There are a lot of online blogs on the subject. Then, you have to have the right products and materials. 100% cotton is very easy to dye. You need materials that can withstand the heat. The dye does not hold on synthetic materials for example.

Is there a specialized store in Paris for eco-friendly dyeing ?

Not to my knowledge… You can find the products in drugstores.

Which wholesalers do you work with for your panty stocks ?

It’s quite random. But, there are so many dormant stocks, factory surpluses that we have a lot of choices when it comes to wholesalers. And again I’m talking about old stock, but I think there’s also a lot of new stock. Today we are producing at all costs, so there is a lot of new stock! We really like the old stock, the old fashioned cut makes the panties fun.

What were your big challenges and how did you overcome them ?

Managing a brand that works with unique pieces or in very small series, for our panties and jewelry, is quite complicated. We have to do much more regular shoots than a traditional brand that will do a shoot at the beginning of the season to sell 300 times the same piece. We shoot 40 unique pieces per shooting. It’s a real asset for our customers who like to wear unique pieces but a real problem for us in terms of organization, logistics and stock management, i.e. in terms of internal referencing and traceability of the pieces. We have been working with software for a year. Another challenge is to succeed in maintaining a link with our community, we don’t have a store on the street so our customers have to be able to follow us in any pop-up, anywhere !

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