Chrysoline de Gastines is fond of Paris’ 9th arrondissement. Life in this district reminds her of her home town, Lille; easily accessible, with her Balzac Paris office just a twenty-minute walk away, and with a quiet feel. The apartment that she moved into in April with her husband Victorien and her two little girls, Garance and Colombe, is a haven of peace. On the top floor, with a delightful view over the slate roofs of Paris. The sort of view of which one never tires, day after day. This gentle quality of life, so important to her, is reflected daily in the clothes she dreams up alongside her team of stylists and designers; clothes that are “romantic with a hint of vintage”. A timeless fashion, unaffected by the latest trends. An entire procedure managed in-house, from the first design to the trying-on of a prototype model to ensure a perfect fit. A commitment to European manufacture. So many reasons for the company’s resounding success. Balzac Paris continues to attract new clients who subscribe 100% to the company’s eco-responsible approach. Step into Chrysoline’s world and it all makes sense. The importance of family. Of respect between generations too. So that those to come may have the chance of living the life that she herself has led. Who knows what the future holds in store. A move back to Lille? She smiles. Nods.”Not straight away, but it is planned”. So, before that happens, The Socialite Family are pleased to take you into her world. A world of soft colours, of family photos and of dream-like wallpaper. A world where Colombe’s happy shouts echo the contentment of Garance, an artist at heart, who is carefully painting, A simple life where happiness comes from being together. And that’s everything.
Chrysoline, can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Chrysoline de Gastines, I am married to Victorien, and we are the proud parents of Garance and Colombe. We are from Lille, we are Parisian by adoption, and together with Charles (our brother-in-law), we have established the Balzac Paris brand. Our ready-to-wear and accessories company has been up and running for five years now! Balzac Paris was born in 2011. It all began with some bow ties, brought up to date to suit modern tastes by my sister, who made them here in France. So it was already a family affair! Alongside this venture, I worked as a community manager at Marie Claire Maison and Marie Claire Idées. Those were three super-enriching years that set me up in the digital world and gave me the skills I needed to develop a brand on social media.
How did your clothing brand, Balzac Paris, come into being?
Balzac Paris is a family business, and we foster this feeling within the company because our teams are very close-knit, and make real friendships in a human-scale organisation. It is important to us that our teams develop continually in a warm and pleasant working environment and that everyone comes to work with a light heart. We make clothes and accessories. There is no necessity for urgency in our work! So it seems normal to us that we should live and work in a serene environment. Our clients often tell us that they feel a real closeness to Balzac Paris, which is logical, since we’ve ensured right from the start that they participate in the creative process, giving us their opinions and their suggestions. This was the case with our winter shop, La Maison d’Hiver, since we asked them what they wanted to see there, starting with The Socialite Family.
Balzac Paris is also a family affair! How does this impact your brand from day to day?
Our clothes are designed to last, and therefore be passed on from mother to daughter! Some pieces are also inspired by children’s clothes, so my kids are a great source of inspiration at times. Our initiative, T.P.R, translates to “A.M.R., Always More Responsible” in English. These three letters are very precious to us; they constitute our daily mission – responsible design – and help to unite us.
What is the Balzac Paris style? Which piece (from your collection) summarises it most effectively in your opinion?
Balzac Paris is the fashion of tomorrow, starting today! Fashion at a fair price that aims to respect the environment. A garment that lasts and lasts, because we want to be proud of all the pieces that bear our name. Our style is romantic, with a touch of vintage, and our design team creates timeless pieces that are in tune with our times, reinventing a certain elegance with a definitive French twist. Our Caesar bag is proof of this. Many women are attracted by its reworked vintage look and its perfect practicality! To try it is to love it…
Where do you draw your inspiration as you build the concept of Balzac Paris, from clothing through to communication?
I work hand in hand with the Balzac Paris style team, which is composed of two ready-to-wear stylists (Marie-Camille and Cécile), one in knitwear (Catherine) and one in accessories (Maria-Rosa). At the beginning of each discussion, I give the girls a theme. They then reflect on it for several weeks before presenting us with their take on it so that we can share our opinions and challenge their vision. It’s a fascinating and creatively productive exercise for the teams. Once we approve it, it will set the tone for the collections as well as for our communications and events! That gives our clients a 360° experience of the world we want to convey. These themes may be inspired by Balzac Paris‘ history, by customers, by current events, and so on… For example, the spring/summer theme P/E 20 (preview) was ‘the right tone, the right note’. Make way for music!
By the way, why did you choose the name Balzac Paris?
As I said, Balzac Paris began as a custom-made bow tie brand, made in France. Honoré de Balzac wrote a treatise on elegant life in 1830 in which he advised men on how to wear the bow tie. We love reading, and we were amused by a reference to this literary monster who was also very sensitive to the world of fashion. And the rest is history (laughs).
You’re very family-oriented. How did you plan your interior to make sure that you could all live together as comfortably as possible?
To begin with, our bedroom had to be in the kitchen and our kitchen in our bedroom! We felt that we were missing a place to get together. An open, communal space where everyone can meet. So we discussed this with Cyrielle Watinne, the architect with whom we had been working, and we decided to create this kitchen, which opens onto the living room and hallway. I’m very happy with these changes! I find this arrangement works well for us as a family.
Which is your favourite room, the one where you like to gather?
This answer will echo my previous one, but I think the kitchen is my favourite room! In general, I’m very sensitive to this room in houses or apartments. It’s the place where we gather and which, for me, is synonymous with great conviviality! After all, don’t the best evenings end in the kitchen?
What did you want to achieve when you were furnishing your home?
I’m not compulsive in my purchases for my home. Everything is considered carefully, even if it means living a little longer with a piece that I don’t like so much and that I would like to replace. This is the case with my dining room chairs, which we’ve had for a few years now and have grown tired of. I’m looking for some that we’ll fall in love with and that we’ll be delighted to see every day. I have to work hard at falling in love – it takes time and thought! As an example, this is what happened with our Pasha chair, which we took a long time to buy but which I never get tired of looking at.
We can see our iconic Panchina bench! How did you acquire it?
I love the Panchina bench! It was like my chair, it took me a long time to take the plunge. I was thrilled receive it (after the frustration of it being out of stock) and unpack it. I’ve put a painting, magazines and a vase on it, but it won’t stop there, and we’ll be able to re-use and reinvent it just as we please. I think it’s going to be with us for quite some time.
We are a partner of La Maison d’Hiver by Balzac Paris, your winter shop. What does The Socialite Family mean to you?
For me, The Socialite Family is in keeping with our times without just copying and pasting the latest trends. For interior decor that lasts and lasts! This is very similar to our vision of fashion at Balzac Paris.
Christmas is coming! How are you preparing for the holidays this year?
I’m going to Lille to visit my parents and to the Pré Rainette in Sorrus to visit my in-laws! We always share ourselves between our two families because it’s very important to us to be able to enjoy these special times with everyone. I haven’t yet found the secret of making my gifts in advance… but I’m still as excited as ever to wander through the streets of Lille at this time of the year! Music, lights, they all contribute to the atmosphere, and I love hearing my daughters marvelling at it. On school mornings we never tire of counting the smallest Christmas decorations in shop windows. It’s a great technique for getting us to set off early and take the time to look at what’s around us! (laughs)
What’s in store for you at the end of 2019/ beginning of 2020?
We have a fun collection in the pipeline for you, the same ‘responsible use of waste’ collection we have been producing since our earliest days, and which uses the fabric waste from our factories according to our T.P.R. (in English, A.M.R., Always More Responsible) approach. It will be divided into two chapters, and the first is super-colourful, to set us off dreaming of summer!
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily