Sophie Thimmonier and François Grouiller live in front of the Williamsburg bridge, in a modern building that constrasts with the traditional red-bricks buildings around. Both French, these two entrepreneurs found their promised land in America, and more precisely, in this neighbourhood. After having been living there for almost ten years, the couple tries San Francisco. There, Sophie created Breaking the wool, a website on which the novices can learn knitting thanks to inspiring tutorials. Success is on the cards, the orders flooded in and Paris welcomes them in 2011. François has been nominated at the head of the strategy department at the digital creativity agency, Fred & Farid. There he felt good, found his feet quicky, and then worked for the parent company . His most famous stunt has been the Carambar prank in 2013, that’s to say the fact the brand would stop their mythical jokes and write pieces of advice for grammar/spelling instead. He converted the try. Farid Mokart and Frédéric Raillard handed him the reins (and the development) of their entity in New York. So back to the starting point, three blocks away from their home ten years ago. Though, Williamsburg changed. All this takes up the whole days of this family, that juggles with the kids’ timetables, the knitting activities of their mom – Sophie develops kits, classes, workshops and practical educational books – and the return trips of their dad. It is an intense daily life they would not trade for anything. There, in the city that never sleeps, which has recently named Fred & Farid “Independent Agency of the Year” at the 2016 Clio Awards in New York.
François, Sophie, how long have you been living in Williamsburg?
We used to live in Williamsburg 10 years ago, before moving to San Francisco, then to Paris 4 years ago. We’ve now been back for 6 months.
Why this choice ?
We spent a month in Manhattan last summer, just to “tried it out” as a family. We ruled it out because compared to our sweet Parisian life, it felt way too hectic. The noise is constant, traffic is mad… it never stops. Apart from some neighborhoods like West Village or some parts of Upper West Side, it’s difficult to find serenity and a real sense of space. Since we found a school we liked in Greenpoint, we decided Williamsburg (where the pace is quieter) was a good idea. We had also considered Carroll Garden (where you can find good dual language schools), but the real estate market was not very dynamic. Yes, North Williamsburg is full of bros trying too hard to be cool, but you’re by the river, it’s airy and there are plenty of great parks. Though we moved 3 blocks from where we used to live 10 years ago, the experience is very different. We thought it will keep us young – it actually makes us feel old…
Could you describe your job here in NYC ?
François came to open an ad agency in the US, which has been very intense and time consuming, but so far they are doing incredibly well. And I’m a knitting designer: after founding Breaking The Wool five year ago, my passion for knitting and fashion is still growing, and I want to keep exploring these fields. I’m now writing my third book, and evolving my business to do something even more exciting.
A place to be for a week end ?
Woodstock is a great place to escape for a family week-end.
How long do you plan to stay in the USA ?
Life will tell.
Sophie, how is life with two children here? What is your daily life? Is it not too hard?
I would never dare to complain! That said, it is challenging and my days are packed. Clearly, I make “exciting” rhyme with “exhausting”. We wake up at 7am to take care of the kids and be ready to start working at 9am. I tried to never eat alone, and leverage my lunch time to relax and meet people that inspire me. School finishes very early, so I need to be done with business at 3pm. Then starts the third part of the day: I do activities with the kids until 8.30pm, when I can finally sit down and have a well-deserves glass of wine, unless I have to attend or host a dinner. We try not to work on week-ends and spend all our time together as a family, exploring the many wonders of the city or going away on the country side.
How do you want to develop your brand ?
The cool thing with Breaking the Wool is that it’s a pretty strong brand. First, our mission is clear: to rejuvenate the art of knitting, by making it more fun, more accessible and more fashionable. Second, we have true dedicated fans that are super creative, believe in what we do and follow us. So as long as we respect those fundamentals, we can develop our business in many different ways. Our brand ideal has never changed, but our business has always evolved: we first sold knitted accessories for newborns (under my previous company, “Paul & Sophie”), then beautiful handmade “châles”, then knitting kits, then knitting classes and practical creative books… Now I’m getting more and more requests for collaborations with bigger fashion brands that want to refresh their style, create some special editions or have me infuse my universe into theirs.
Tell us about your dream.
Take the kids with us and go tour the world for a year.
What is your motto ?
“Always in pursuit of magic”.
The place you like the most in Brooklyn ?
Sitting at the bar of Hotel Delmano, sipping on a refreshing cocktail.
Could you give us the best restaurant in Williamsburg ? Or in New York ?
Crédits : Constance Gennari@thesocialitefamily