They were carving a place for themselves in the world of French boutiques first online and then through pop-up shops. Now the duo behind French Wink, Claire Obry and Myline Descamps, are taking a big leap forward.
“It’s a big step, we’re very lucky that Armel and Axel [the bosses of the restaurant O’Cabanon] trusted us; we’re going to attract more brands,” says Obry. “The fact that we have a physical space is a fortunate opportunity; it’s difficult for a brand to open a store in New York.”
To promote and help French brands grow, the two founders rely on their online e-shop platform and pop-ups. After the first European Taste Expérience pop-up in December 2019, the grocery space at the French restaurant O’Cabanon became theirs for good. But take note — it’s not a store.
“We’re not shopkeepers, we’re really a laboratory, a testing ground for French brands that want to test their product on the American market,” says Descamps. In short, the two entrepreneurs don’t buy the products to resell them: they operate like a consignment system and take a commission on sales.
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In terms of their activities, the scope of possibilities has been expanded. On the mezzanine, they are planning kitchen workshops and conferences, and are already screening short films in French. “There are no limits on creativity. We can do a lot of things, and we have a lot of ideas.”
In terms of brands, they are presenting and promoting new brands in the US, but they’re also attracting big names. “We also have large, well-established brands that want to be part of that, that want to be part of the event,” says Descamps.
A “rendez-vous” is how the two French women define their new space. “It’s not just a store, it’s not just products for sale, it’s about the atmosphere, the friendliness, staying here, having cocktails, stopping the New York pace and switching to enjoy the French pace of life.
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Though the opening of the boutique anchors French Wink in the New York landscape, Obry and Descamps are looking further. “We’ve earned our stripes. Now we do pop-ups outside of New York, and we also have projects outside of the French world,” explains Obry. “We’ve managed to establish our ourselves as knowledgable and capable, and now we can work for all kinds of brands, whether they’re French or not,” adds Descamps.
At French Wink, you can find clothes, olive oil, make-up remover, and baby products, but also mustard and madeleines and books in French. And every month, a new brand is highlighted. During the first month, they are highlighting Beauty Garden, a brand of cosmetics and teas, directly from Corrèze, in southwestern France. And if you are in the Chelsea area, you’re invited to come and spend January 30 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the “rendez-vous” evening, where you can try the Beauty Garden products, taste the infusions and cocktails. (Register here.)