You started with one A Suivre shop in 2008, and now you have seven boutiques in Belgium. How did you develop A Suivre's unique DNA?
At first, every boutique was slightly different. Not only because we aren't allowed to offer each label in every city, but also because there wasn't one consistent interior or design that we utilised throughout the different branches. After a while, we thought that this diversity throughout the boutiques became slightly confusing. There wasn't a recognisable feature for clients to identify the A Suivre boutiques. At that point, we sat together with an interior designer and came up with a concept that could be integrated into the different A Suivre stores. We decided to work with natural materials like wood and marble and mixed those elements with more demure and industrial materials like the black steel clothing racks. Colourwise, we limit ourselves to two or three colours in each store, allowing the clothing itself to add colour and a vibrant energy to the boutique's look and feel. It's the clothing that needs to grab your attention, not the interior.
What kind of atmosphere do you want to create for a client in the A Suivre boutiques?
We want our customers to have a free and comfortable shopping experience. They need to feel at liberty to ask for assistance when needed but are equally free to peruse the boutique at their own pace. We would hate it if anything felt forced. It's the fundamental basis of A Suivre that each client experiences a personal, tailor-made service. If a customer needs styling assistance, our team can help them style head-to-toe looks for any day or occasion. If they are looking for one item of one particular brand, we will assist them with the same amount of dedication. When we feel that clients would benefit from a little bit extra guidance, we will slightly push them towards a riskier choice compared to their day-to-day style but only when we know that a client will appreciate this kind of advice and is open to it.
With seven boutiques, buying trips, administration and everything else that's involved in running a multi-brand store, do you still find the time to assist clients in the shop yourselves?
We aim to be as much in the stores as possible. Unfortunately, this isn't feasible on a weekly basis anymore, but we make the time as often as we can. With seven boutiques, it's important that we're able to divide our attention accordingly, making sure that no store or store manager feels left out. Fortunately, we have an outstanding team of friendly, fashion forward and driven people working for A Suivre. That makes it easier for us to trust that things run smoothly when we're not there. We provide the team with guidelines and we'll follow-up on everything, but we can trust each A Suivre boutique's team to steer everything in the right direction. Aside from the daily undertaking in the boutiques, it's important that we stay in touch with our client's needs and wishes. That's how we can make the most of our buying trips afterwards, by having a profound knowledge of our client. When you know and understand your customer, everything else falls into place.
Is being sisters and working together 24/7 always easy?
For us, it works. Of course, things collide now and then but because we are sisters, we know each other like the back of our hand, and that makes it easier to point out struggles from the moment they arise. We never have to hold back to spare each other's feelings, because we know we can work everything out. Since we have the opportunity to resolve conflicts immediately, we can focus all our energy on looking forward at the bigger picture of it all. Aside from our professional partnership, we remain sisters and friends in the first place. Our children are extremely close, so when we're not working together, we're also spending almost all of our spare time together. There aren't a lot of days in a year that we don't see each other. We hear and see each other constantly and personally, I don't see how A Suivre could work as well as it does if we didn't get along as well as we do. I don't think this would have been possible with anyone other than my sister or close family member. The trick to it all is understanding each other, being prepared to compromise and staying on the same page.