Yarn Store of the Month continues visiting many of our favourite yarn stores across the world with the incredible Les Laines du Marais in Paris, France. We spoke to Jean-Francois Lejarre and discussed the inspiration behind the business, as well as the future of knitting in France.
What was the inspiration to opening Les Laines du Marais?
Les Laines du Marais is a project originated by the desire to develop a personal venture. I worked for five years in the world of e-commerce, and I think that this experience brought to the surface this desire I had since childhood to be a shopkeeper. I wasn’t necessarily destined to do something revolving around the world of knitting, but when it came to bringing the project to life, I looked around for all the options available. I had a friend in England who dyed yarn (Frankenskein Yarn). I loved her world very much and was very impressed with everything she was able to produce from virgin fibres. I then surveyed the market a little bit and thought that there might still be a tiny place for me in this market niche. I then pictured myself at the head of an e-commerce site that would commercialise yarn and knitting accessories. Against all the odds, I was seduced by this idea and I launched the Laines du Marais.
How popular is knitting/crochet in the France?
The popularity of knitting and crochet is growing rapidly in France. There has been a strong demand from people for handmade products in general in recent years. People no longer want to pay a fortune for clothing or accessories whose quality and associated working conditions lack transparency. Handmade is a way to reconcile with something more tangible. This allows you to reconnect with yourself while producing something that you can then wear or offer. In addition to the pleasure of knitting or crocheting, you can choose the material and colour. You regain control and become able to create clothing or accessories that are not mass-produced. There is also a lot of talk about knitting as the Yoga of the mind, which I fully support. What has been striking in recent years is that knitting seems to bring together all generations under the same banner. It is no longer the activity that some considered old-fashioned. We are now happy to be able to learn or relearn from elders or to discover or refine our technique on social networks. It is a shared activity that allows people to get together on weekdays or weekends in cafés or parks with a snack that they share with others. It is an activity that cannot be separated from conviviality.
Since opening, how far has the business developed?
I started from scratch, so I am delighted today to have made the transition from a place where I was thrilled to have one order per week to several orders per day. The size of my shop remains modest, but I like to think there is no need to rush things as long as you stay on the right track and keep the core business, the service to an ever more enthusiastic clientele, at the heart of my priorities.
What is the secret to your success?
I don’t know if we can really talk about success here, but what has enabled my business to grow is above all, I think, the respect of my customers, a great availability and the desire that each shopping experience be a pleasant one with no room for frustration or regret. For me, a sale is not good enough if my customer is not happy herself.
How has HiyaHiya helped your business to flourish?
HiyaHiya allowed me to meet a new clientele. I was looking to expand my catalogue and needed products whose quality was already well established and whose brand-name was synonymous with “treat.” It didn’t take me long to find this nugget and start a successful collaboration with HiyaHiya. Very quickly, people became interested in the products and the different variations offered. HiyaHiya’s signature is a guarantee of quality and the service provided by the team in England is a driving force for the success of a cloud-free collaboration. I think people love pandas too and the small accessories brighten up the highly appreciated needles.
What do you love most about your line of work?
What I like most of all is to be able to get up in the morning and say to myself that I’m going to have a good day. I quickly learned to love the yarn industry and all its participants. The handicraft sector is a chance because it connects you with passionate people, people who contact you because they have a project in mind and count on you to put your energy at their disposal to find what they need. There is never any animosity in the contact, it’s just happiness. HiyaHiya contributes significantly to this because the purchase of a kit is often a significant experience for a knitter. Buying a kit or luxurious yarn is a very engaging activity that you do after careful consideration. Like all precious things, wool or knitting accessories are an investment in happiness. In this purchase, we plan the future works that we will be able to make for ourselves or others, the joy they will bring or the satisfaction they will generate. It is these kinds of feelings that make me want to continue in this sector.
What trends do you see happening in the craft industry in the future?
I think that the world of needlework is in constant renewal. Generations of knitters follow one another and nothing seems to curb this craze. What is striking right now is that younger and younger people are becoming more and more passionate about an activity that we used to believe was the preserve of older people. Social networks contribute enormously to maintaining the phenomenon and creating ever larger groups that no longer hesitate to meet regularly to knit or crochet together. We knit and crochet more and more, women and men alike. No competition but a healthy emulation that pushes to perfect techniques, to choose more complicated patterns, to try new accessories that allow you to go faster or to make the practice of needlework more pleasant. The trend is, therefore, clearly towards more knitting, crocheting, and experimentation with yarn. Accessories, needles, and hooks accompany the movement and adapt to new trends. In short, the future is bright ?
What are your plans for Les Laines du Marais in the future?
I will continue to develop my business slowly by regularly integrating new products. The current craze makes creators regularly release new products to adapt to demand or to break market rules by creating a surprise with new yarn mixes or accessories that we didn’t think of. I hope to be able to surprise in turn by offering less common things while keeping a strong collaboration with my current suppliers. I also hope to be able to integrate more and more products that are more respectful of people and the environment/animal (which is already the case with many suppliers.
To visit Les Laines du Marais, click here.