Founder of Au Juste
Tell us about your life before founding Au Juste
My name is Gonzague, I’m 27 years old and I come from Angers where I grew up and did all my secondary school studies.
Otherwise, what do you do in your working life? What is your day-to-day role?
I am the founder of Au Juste, a clothing brand that I launched with my sister. My role is mainly that of business developer. However, as there are just the two of us working for the company at present, I am also involved in product development as we create our own clothing, as well as community management and the whole administrative and financial side of things. In short, the very many activities that make up the role of a young start-up boss.
What did you do between your studies at BSB and your current job?
Well, I set up my company when I was still a student! Before BSB, I spent two years working at Carrefour, in Le Mans, as a floor manager in charge of 20 people. This was a real eye-opener for me, an experience that convinced me that I wasn’t really cut out for the job! It was after that that I decided to apply for BSB based upon my previous record.
How would you explain Au Juste to a child?
Au Juste are clothes made from recycled materials, meaning we use old clothing in order to produce new ones by using already existing ones so as not to harm the planet on which we live. The clothing industry is one of the most polluting there is after the petrol that your parents put in their car.
Do you have any news to share?
We have just been referenced by Maddyness as one of the “10 French start-ups offering an alternative to fast fashion”, a term that means disposable clothing that lasts only 6 months. We are pretty proud of this kind of accolade after only 6 months in business. It’s like a rubber stamp on what we are doing, in addition to the many other honourable mentions we have received within the various fashion and ready-made clothing networks.
Do you have a particular story or customer experience to share with us?
Well, here’s just some of the positive feedback we have received. “I found the quality of wool in your products that I had when I was young”. “It’s amazing how warm you feel when you put a Durden on”. “Wool but a wool that doesn’t itch!” “Au Juste jumpers mean you can be stylish and responsible at the same time. They have really done it. The quality is there, the cut of the jumpers is perfect as is the choice of colours. For those trying to make up their mind, go for it and help a worthy cause whilst looking good”. This kind of feedback gives us much encouragement.
What was the most recent or most satisfying achievement that you should have celebrated a bit more?
In January, we took part in a B-to-B fair which we signed up for just two days before. We were there for four days. For the first three and a half nothing happened and then all of a sudden, in the last half-hour, a client turned up and put in an order of several thousand euros! But given that the order hasn’t yet been delivered, we are not celebrating for now. Actually, we find it difficult to celebrate as we don’t really have the time to let our hair down. This is the lot of most entrepreneurs I reckon!
What is the biggest problem you have had to face at Au Juste?
At the moment we are working on three collections at the same time: September, summer and winter. Therefore, we have to finance all three at the same time, meaning a lot of money to take out with no return on investment for a few months. This involves making a lot of purely strategic choices. It’s a fascinating business but a tricky one when you have limited financial resources.
What for you is an agent of change?
For someone in my kind of situation, it means being a part of a young generation of entrepreneurs who want to create something whilst moving in the right direction: let’s not forget the planet we live on and those who live on it.
Is there an agent of change who inspires you in particular?
Majdouline Sbai, author of Une mode éthique est-elle possible? This is a young woman who is always looking for solutions and has personality. She gets her message across without making people feel guilty, which is an especially important asset in our industry.
What is your morning routine that gives you the energy to want to make a difference very day?
I get up in order to do something that I love, which helps no end! I take vitamins B and C every morning as an energy boost as the working day is often long. I also make sure that I am in physical or telephone contact with other company bosses or entrepreneurs of a similar age in the morning, whatever the area they work in. That way I know others are in the same boat, which is reassuring.
What particular event made you want to make a difference?
The collapse of the Rana Plaza in 2013 in Bangladesh, a disaster which saw 1,127 people die. It was like a warning sign of everything that is bad behind the scenes of the fashion world. It was at that precise moment that I realised the importance of the societal and ecological repercussions of what we do, in my case in relation to a textile-based project. So it became obvious to me that people or the environment should not suffer because of simple clothes manufacturing.
What were you like as a student?
In the first year I was a bit of a party animal. I signed up for the Sports Office but we kind of lost… I was out often in the evening, meaning I had to re-sit quite a lot of the first semester. My friends then went off on a gap year, so I started working a bit harder and going out less.
If you could do your student days all over again, what would you do differently?
To be honest, I loved every minute of it. Maybe I could have done a sandwich course in order to fund my studies and have more relevant experience upon graduation, but no regrets.
What choice of learning track or corporate experience proved the most useful during your student days?
In my first year I did an internship in Malaysia, in an auditing company with a good reputation abroad. This experience made its mark on me. In addition, the entrepreneurial track that I took meant I could access the Incub’BSB and make the most of 6 precious months of support, just at the time that I was launching Au Juste. Otherwise, I was generally very happy with the teachers I had at the School, especially those at The Entrepreneurial Garden.
Did you meet anyone in particular during your studies who made an impression on you?
Yes, the Dean, Stéphan Bourcieu. It was mainly down to him that I opted for BSB as I had the chance to go to other, better-ranked schools. I spoke with him for about 15 minutes during the orals and loved what I heard. He encouraged me to come to Dijon. To be perfectly honest, I had already seen the town and the School and was going there just for preparation for the orals more than anything else.
What’s your next big ambition?
With Au juste I would like to develop our distribution network in order to reach all of France. We know that we can take our business further than just Paris and Lyon.
Do you have any advice or a message for BSB students?
Choose your own path, pick up anything you can along the way rather than taking some pre-determined direction. An as for all future up-and-coming entrepreneurs: take your time! If I had released my first products straight after BSB I would have failed immediately. My business wasn’t ready. When you don’t yet know the area well enough, you think you are going to revolutionise it. We wanted to do a bio cotton range. If we had done, it would have been a total failure. You need to explore the terrain first and consider carefully the right concepts and ideas.