Natacha Seroussi of Laflore: “The best advice I got was to believe in my dream”

The best advice I got was to believe in my dream. When I first started to design the LaFlore Paris collection, it was very hard, and we were barely selling any bags. At some point I decided to bet on myself, and I literally invested all the money I had put on the side for […]

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The best advice I got was to believe in my dream. When I first started to design the LaFlore Paris collection, it was very hard, and we were barely selling any bags. At some point I decided to bet on myself, and I literally invested all the money I had put on the side for the past couple of years to do a big Facebook campaign. We worked with someone who was a pro in this, and at the end of the campaign, there was not one sale! It was so depressing, and it felt so easy to just give up and work in the store selling leather bags. But I always remember that little voice saying: “Believe in your dream, don’t give up,” and I kept going. I learned, the line evolved, and we improved, and eventually LaFlore became as successful as it is today!


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Natacha Seroussi.

Natacha Seroussi is the co-founder and designer of the “bobobark bag” from Laflore fashion. Growing up in Paris, she watched her father Elie create beautiful handbags for his fashion house, Cecile et Jeanne. His hard work and dedication to the world of fashion inspired Natacha with a passion for design. After studying art, as well as becoming an accomplished horse trainer, Natacha found the opportunity to work alongside her father to usher in a new vision of sustainability and eco-friendliness to the industry. Combining their shared appreciation for the classic Parisian aesthetic with the ethics of today’s modern woman, they created bobobark: a beautiful, versatile, zero-waste, vegan handbag that flatters the silhouette and style of any woman. Their ultimate goal for this new venture was that women would no longer have to choose between style and comfort, beauty or sustainability.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I have always been very attracted to fashion, art and design. As a child, I remember spending hours in my father’s workshop, playing with beads and fabric. When I grew up I decided to study fine art and specialized in sculpture, and at the same time I was working with horses, as a horse trainer and teacher — nature and animals were very important to me. It is when I moved to New York after my studies that I realized I wanted to make a career in fashion. At the time, in parallel to my horse trainer job upstate New York, I was helping my dad in trade shows in Manhattan, representing his line of vintage leather bags. I remember the first time I entered the world of fashion in NYC, I was shook by so many inspiring designers, energy and creativity. I realized that fashion was sculpture, painting, installation and dance all at once. I just needed to add the nature part, by making it vegan and eco friendly, and it could become my dream. My father and I partnered up to create a new brand that would carry those values; esthetic and ethic, heritage and modernity.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

On one side the design of the bag itself, the look of both bebebark and bobobark is very different from what you can see on the market: very pure and clean lines, with the iconic mat black, brass clasp and signature orange lining.

Until now, women could either pick an elegant tote bag or a bulky backpack, but there was not any elegant and chic backpack that could also convert into a shoulder bag. Bebebark and bobobark both offer these options; they are classy enough for a serious work meeting, elegant enough for going out and super comfy as a backpack.

On the other hand, we are offering a real alternative to leather. Everybody knows today how polluting the fashion industry is, and the dramatic impact leather has on our environment and animal welfare. As designers, it is our duty to propose eco friendly alternatives. Cork is sustainable, feels and looks great, and is organic and alive. Our bags are essentially made from trees, but we never hurt the trees; on the contrary, they reject more oxygen after we collect their bark every 7 to 9 years. The oak forest is also the shelter of a very rich eco system, so by supporting the cork industry we are protecting the natural habitat of all this rich fauna and flora and encouraging the planting of trees.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we started with Laflore, I was so excited to show the new collection to the world that I used my contact list of B2B buyers from the time I was representing the leather collection of my father in NY. I sent an email to everyone on that list to introduce the new line; one of our biggest client had fur shops in NY, and she got so upset that I dared propose her “vegan bags”. She wrote “Vegan is very bad for my business.” I was so embarrassed! But it also made me realize that indeed it was “really bad for her business,” because the world was changing, and vegan was on the way to become the new norm. It gave me strength and courage to continue, even if it took two long years after that event for the line to finally take off!

Have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My first and forever mentor is my father Elie; he always encouraged me and my creative passions, teaching me while at the same time giving me enough space to do my own thing. When I was five years old, he asked me what I want to become when I grow up and I said, “I want to designs hats.” The next day he took me to a magnificent Parisian atelier of hat making. The week after, he asked the same question and I said I want to work in a horse show, and again he took me to see Zingaro, the famous equestrian theater. My father raised us with the idea that everything was possible always — that we could just pick up the craziest dream and make it happen if we worked hard enough. The fact that he is not a designer himself is what makes us a great team because we are complementary; he sees everything that can be improved in a bag so he always have feedback and advices about my work. But, on the other hand, I can enjoy the space and freedom of being the only creative mind of the brand.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think that the real question is what are you disrupting — if it is a balanced and sustainable industry, then you need to think of what impact you will make on that industry and the long-term consequences. For example, when plastic arrived on the market in the fifties, it was revolutionary and dramatically changed the way people lived and consumed; today we know it was also an ecological catastrophe. Was it worth bringing comfort and abundance into people lives to pay such a high price afterword? I am not sure. Was there another solution that could allow such a fast improvement in our comfort and hygiene? I don’t know either.

When it comes to the eco conscious movement, I do think that this kind of disruptive is only positive. We can feel this new awareness all around us; in every field people are coming up with solutions and alternatives. The youngest generation is aware of the environment challenges that we are facing and is ready to change and adapt in order to create a more sustainable world. And yes, this is disruptive and even disturbing; we will have to adapt and change a lot, but we must make that change. Will we be effective enough and fast enough? The latest events proved how humanity can adapt and change quickly when confronted with global threats. And I am optimistic that we can do the same with climate change.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

The best advice I got was to believe in my dream. When I first started to design the LaFlore Paris collection, it was very hard, and we were barely selling any bags. At some point I decided to bet on myself, and I literally invested all the money I had put on the side for the past couple of years to do a big Facebook campaign. We worked with someone who was a pro in this, and at the end of the campaign, there was not one sale! It was so depressing, and it felt so easy to just give up and work in the store selling leather bags. But I always remember that little voice saying: “Believe in your dream, don’t give up,” and I kept going. I learned, the line evolved, and we improved, and eventually LaFlore became as successful as it is today!

The second piece of advice that I got is; “Always surround yourself with people that complete you.” Know you strengths and your weakness and partner up with people that will balance your weakness. It is easy to fall into the control freak pattern and dictate every aspect of your business, especially when one has worked so hard at it. Instead, I recommend working with talented people, giving them the freedom to express themselves and thrive, trusting them and letting them lead in their field. This is the true key to success, and the only way you will have a dedicated and motivated team.

“Trust your instinct” is another piece of advice I live by. I think with time I realized that, more than trusting my instinct, the real advise is learn how to analyze your instinct and understand were it is coming from. We all have a bunch of reasons and excuses to make one decision rather than another. I always stop and analyze each reason I give myself to make a decision and sort out what’s influencing me to think one way rather than the other. Is it my ego that doesn’t agree with my interlocutor or am I really against this new idea? Am I putting down this offer because it is not the right moment for us, or am I letting the fear decide for me? When I started LaFlore, a lot of signs were pushing me to choose a different path, and in some points I may have come out as stubborn to some people. But deep inside, I knew that the reason I was holding on to this project was not because I had too big of an ego to let go, or because I was a naive activist, it was because I truly felt that the industry was about to change and that the market was ready for that change.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Of course, I am already working on new designs, I am constantly running a few prototypes at the same time, the excitement of creating new pieces and seeing it come to life is addictive. When I work on a new design I ask myself: what is missing in women’s’ lives? What can I add to the market that will truly be useful? Of course, on top of creating esthetic and practical bags, my long-term goal is to impact the fashion industry globally and influence both designers and consumers to go for sustainable alternative. For instance, I was very happy to see, since the launch of Bobobark, other brands starting using cork as an alternative to leather and therefore enriching the market with more sustainable products. I do hope that LaFlore Paris will become a global leader in bags and accessory in the next 10 years and intend to work hard to make this happen.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I think that generally women are taken less seriously than men, and you need to work harder to convince people. Our determinations can pass as stubbornness, our ambition as whim, our confidence as ego, and our ability to make decision as authoritarian. But what doesn’t help is that we often communicate in our work environment with less confidence and less naturally than men, specifically because we are aware of the challenges. I do think that the first step to overcome these stereotypes is to get rid of the cliché ourselves, and walk into a meeting or an interview being natural and ourselves, instead of feeling like we have to prove something to someone. I think it is fundamental to understand the strength and weakness we have as individual and let go of the gender stereotype. Once you are not taking into consideration the fact that you are a man or a women and just speaking with your true self, there are more chances that your interlocutor will also forget about your gender and just listen to the human being that in in front of him.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

This might be cliché, but the one book that truly impacted me is Siddhartha by Hermann Heists. Finding the balance between spiritual and material, reality and imagination. I think that LaFlore is a little bit of this, keeping the beauty and the art in the center but adding something meaningful to it and trying to join a bigger goal, to impact positively the world around us.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

It would be the eco consciousness movement, of course. I really wish to influence people to buy differently, to change their habits and the way they relate to the environment. I think that generally it is a never-ending quest and that we can always be better. At LaFlore Paris, we are still improving everyday and hope to become more and more sustainable. There is still a lot of work to do. As of today we are keeping our sustainable promise by choosing sustainable material; cork and recycled cotton. We put a huge emphasis on the durability of our products, we make high quality bags that will last, and we take care of any repair or replacement if needed. And of course the way we deal with our stock, by working with platform like kickstarter we make sure to never produce more than needed and avoid stock waste (which is the main reason why the fashion industry is so polluting). On top of all this, we try to make our community realize that eco friendly alternative does not have to mean compromise, and that it can be as chic and good.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“90% of work, 10% of talent.” I grew up with that sentence and everytime i was bad at something I told myself: it’s ok if you work harder than the rest, because you might succeed in the end.

How can our readers follow you online?

We have a blog on our website with interesting articles about sustainability and fashion:

https://lafloreparis.com/blogs/laflore-blog

And of course, you can follow us on instagram to stay tuned on every novelty: @lafloreparis

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