Run by women's woman and French fashionista, Stephanie Binlich, we get to know the lady behind the Marie & Lola brand and community.
Tell us the story behind Marie & Lola.
I was in banking for years but decided to take a break to spend time with the kids. After a while I got quite bored of being a stay at home mum, so I decided to launch the Blue Summer Boutique, selling ethical resort products made in Kenya by women.
I’d always been attracted to prints, probably from my childhood in Africa, so it felt like a natural fit. Unfortunately, this activity was too seasonal so I shifted the business model to bring to the expat community a selection of up and coming clothes from French brands we all knew, but could not buy here. I started with private sales in my area and then things quickly expanded to pop ups, fairs and finally a website. And here we are!
What have you learnt since launching?
Having come from finance, I’ve learnt a lot in so many new areas including marketing, sales, understanding my customers, and learning an awful lot about human relationships.
What are you most proud of?
When customers send me lovely messages about their purchases and those customers who just keep coming back for more.
What are your plans for the next phase of the business?
To start with, I’m looking to create a much bigger online presence. Following that, I’m looking for the website to become more of a concept store with accessories, jewellery, homewares. And introducing the Made in France label.
What is your motto in business?
I’m not sure I have a motto as such, but my mission is to offer very good quality clothing, made in France, at a realistic price.
Why do you think French style is so coveted by women?
I think women love French style because it is simple, chic and understated. It’s just so very wearable. What’s not to love about that?!
Who is the Marie & Lola woman?
She is happy and confident, and she enjoys her clothes.
What is the ‘hero piece’ in your wardrobe that you wear year after year?Our Legringo cardi, Honfleur jumpers and most maxi dresses.
What do you look for in the pieces and brands you choose for Marie & Lola?
Obviously they have to be made in France. G
Tell us a bit more about you…
I’m from Paris originally, but I’ve lived in London for almost 30 years now. We have 3 kids. I spent my childhood in Africa and then Paris where I studied business management. I moved to London for a 6 month internship and stayed! In between I worked for a French clothing brand in the wholesale department - maybe it was a sign!
Where else do you love to shop online?
I love & Other Stories, J Crew, Hush, Iris Fashion, Claudie Pierlot and the French boutique, Berenice.
There are brands I love but I don’t buy from them very often - they're on the expensive side! I like Bash, Isabel Marant, Etoile, Paul and Jo, Maje, loveshackfancy, Joie and Dodo Bar Or. I like FWP by Rae – admittedly, I’ve got most of her t-shirts!
For bags, I love Claris Virot, Jerome Dreyfus, Vanessa Bruno and my favourite is my little M bag (got it in 5 colours!) from Maje.
As for shoes, I’ll go for any comfortable trainer brands. Otherwise I love Patricia Blanchet. Her shoes are just so stylish. And K Jacques for the summer.
How do you relax?
When in London I simply like being at home on my sofa with my tea and no one around. I am normally so busy I never have a chance to sit down! When away I love to try to have a nice massage or facial when I start my holiday followed by a 10-hour sleep!
Name your favourite places to visit and shop in Paris
Les Puces, especially for Art Deco things. Place des Victoires, Musée d Orsay, Le bon Marché, Merci which is a great concept store, Monoprix for my every day stuff and they have a great selection of clothes too. Each time I go back to Paris I have to go to Monoprix! Sephora for beauty.
Sarah Lavoine is a gorgeous interior design store – I love the one on Rue de Passy in the courtyard.
For clothing I always check on Berenice, Sœur, Patricia Blanchet, La Petite Mendigote. Rue de Passy, St Germain and Le Marais are great locations for shopping.