French Wink, a startup that assists French brands in reaching consumers abroad, is introducing American consumers to quality, made-in-France goods in order to promote the “French attitude” in the US.
Upon moving to New York City, Claire Obry, a 34-year-old mother of three, noticed that French brands attempting to break into the market were struggling to expand beyond New York’s French community. “There is a high demand for creations by French artisans and designers in the United States, but French brands struggle to find the support and guidance needed to present and sell their products.” Coming from a background in communication and with experience supporting artisans in France, Obry decided to make it her mission to help these French brands succeed in their new environment by introducing the French taste for quality, artisanal products to American consumers.
Obry partnered with Myline Descamps, a 38-year-old French entrepreneur and also a mother of three. Descamps brought business and retail experience to the startup, having founded a fair trade company and operated a boutique café in Laos. Together, Descamps and Obry created the idea for the French Wink pop-up store, a one-stop-shop for American Francophiles and shopaholics to explore the best made-in-France products in their own city. From Sophie la Girafe’s well-known toys, to quality leather goods by brands like Jean Rousseau, the brands that French Wink works with represent the best of iconic French products.
Each brand that French Wink works with has a portion of its production based in France, and the quality and artisanship of each product is guaranteed. This focus on well-made, iconic French products has been a great success with consumers in the US, who admire the French savoir faire, and can enter into their fantasy of a French boutique when walking into one of French Wink’s New York pop-up stores.
While Americans admire and appreciate the quality and attention to detail featured in French Wink’s brands, several differences still separate the American style of consumption from that of the French. “We offer unique products with their own distinctive backgrounds, not mass-produced goods,” said Descamps. According to her, this difference between the French and American markets is one of the biggest obstacles facing French brands who want to sell their products in the US. French Wink thus helps French brands understand the consumption styles of the average American consumer, while also promoting “the French attitude” towards shopping and consumption to Americans.
French Wink relies on the sharing economy to spread the cost of events and pop-up stores among the various brands that it works with. In order to become a member of the French Wink community, each brand contributes a small entrance fee which then allows them to display at French Wink events and pop-up stores, and sell their products online through French Wink’s e-shop. Obry and Descamps are also looking for funding in order to support their efforts moving forward.
In the future, Obry and Descamps do not see French Wink limited to New York City or even to the United States. Instead, they hope to see French Wink’s reach expand, with pop-up stores in more cities so that shoppers around the world can experience “the French attitude.”
French Wink’s next pop-up store, offering Valentine’s Day-themed products, will open at 230 Mulberry Street, in the SoHo neighborhood of New York, February 12 through 14, 2017.