Daughter of grocers, camellia barbachi grew up with an entrepreneurial spirit. And the conviction that with hard work and tenacity, anything is possible. But this fan of fashion first worked on international trade at the Catholic University of Lille, then won a double MBA in the Netherlands and England.
The desire to embark on ethical fashion was imposed in 2019, when the founder of the brand With us writes a thesis on the impact of fast fashion and interviews dozens of experts while working for six months at the headquarters of Asics, a committed brand, in Amsterdam. “I wanted to act. I had the business background, I could see how a company works. But I lacked skills in fashion and technique or how to transcribe an idea to a supplier,” explains the 25-year-old entrepreneur. Upon her return to France, the following year, she joined the Bordeaux Institute of Styling and Modeling for an accelerated course in the creation of collections.
She takes advantage of her evenings to imagine the DNA of her brand and ensure the viability of her business plan: “I had in mind to work between France and Tunisia (land of her roots, editor’s note) and to have an impact in both countries,” says Camélia Barbachi, who created her microenterprise in August 2021.
Taking the opposite view of fast-fashion, she approaches a zero-waste knitting factory in Roubaix, where she was born, and a professional integration workshop in Lesquin. In Tunisia, it signs with two workshops certified GOTS or Global Organic Textile Standard (organic textile). At stake? Fair working conditions and wages or even the promise to respect the environment through virtuous practices, such as the recycling of wastewater, for example. “Offering an inclusive project, which values diversity through ethically designed pieces, is the very essence of the brand. I go there regularly to make sure that the specifications are respected”, explains Camélia Barbachi, before adding: “Tunisia is quite advanced on these issues, more than France which has lost its know-how in wanting to relocate its activities”.
For her first collection, she is inspired by the island of Djerba and its way of life. She draws on her memories, her exchanges with her grandparents to offer a unisex line. Under his leadership, the Djerba blouses, navigating between the traditional and the contemporary, sold for 110 euros each, are revisited and fashioned both for evenings and for the daily wardrobe. Small handbags, loose sweatshirts, denim pieces have since joined the brand’s racks.
A series of endowments
However, the pitfalls were not lacking. Having worked abroad after finishing her studies, Camélia Barbachi did not benefit from unemployment to start her business. No outlets. It relies on word of mouth, and at the end of 2021 orchestrated a crowdfunding campaign on the Ulule platform, and created an Instagram and Facebook community. “To test the market and the products, I launched a pre-order campaign. I sold 252 in one month, against 100 pre-orders initially hoped for, ”says the designer. Enough to finance the stock, honor the first orders and develop the brand.
Since then, she has lost count of the prizes won, along with endowments: prize for winning career from La Fondation des Possibles, Audace prize from the Roch Mousquetaires Foundation, E-Fashion Awards, etc. coupled with a loan of honor of 12,000 euros from the part of Bpifrance and France Initiative. “The endowments will allow me to experiment with pop-up stores in Paris to meet customers,” says Camélia Barbachi.
At the end of 2021, it was invited as a favorite brand to the Who’s Next show, an international women’s fashion event, the time to forge partnerships with a handful of first retailers (two points of sale in Lille, another in Brussels and digital marketplaces).
Since December, Chez Nous has sold more than 350 pieces. “The shops buy me stocks in quantity,” rejoices the designer. Earnings are reinvested in the development of the brand. “I still live on my savings and I hope to pay myself my first salary in early 2023”, continues the young woman who also works in universities and carries out consulting assignments on CSR and the creation of eco-responsible brands.
In August, it switched to the status of single-person simplified joint-stock company (Sasu). “The micro-enterprise allowed me to test the activity the first year and to make sure that my business model is viable. But when you have ambitions, this status remains limited”, confesses the entrepreneur, who applied for a bank loan to develop her network of physical points of sale. From now on, she also wants to conquer the international. Already in contact with Business France, it is initially targeting neighboring countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.