Small Business Profile: Pauline Montupet, Owner of Le Point - San Francisco
Hi Pauline! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm Pauline. I am the owner and buyer of Le Point, a clothing shop based in the Mission district in San Francisco as well as online. I also continue to work as a wardrobe stylist on photoshoots. I have been working as a wardrobe stylist since 2006 and moved to San Francisco from New York in 2008. After many years of styling, I was looking for a different kind of creative outlet and endeavor and I opened the shop in 2015. Aside of my work life, I love tacos, chai tea, time at the movies and am also the mom to an amazing almost 3 year old named Ollie.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I have always loved fashion and design, but when I originally went to college it was a very different time. Working in fashion seemed way more exclusive and harder to break into. So I originally went to school for business, but since I went to school at NYU and was in New York City- it enabled me to start interning and working in fashion very early on. I then ended up going back to school for fashion design at FIT. I have been working in the fashion industry since I was 19 years old, from fashion PR and events, to apparel design and production, as a fashion editor and stylist and now as a buyer and shop owner.
What drew you to becoming a fashion stylist?
To be honest it kind of fell into my lap at first. I had worked in fashion PR and then had gone to school for fashion design when an old contact from my PR days led me to a freelance fashion editor / stylist position. I think that as I started styling, I realized that my passion for clothing and design and my skill set were better suited at interpreting clothing rather than designing it myself. As a stylist you have to be able to edit, and view clothing and collections and make a story out of it, or make things work for a client with a specific vision. I really like that aspect of it.
Why did you leave New York and move to San Francisco?
A boy. It didn't work out but I am still here.
Where did your idea for Le Point come from?
When I moved from New York to San Francisco, I felt like I started shopping more online since it was really hard to find stores in the Bay Area that had the brand mix that I was looking for. I had been working as a wardrobe stylist for about 9 years and I was ready for a new adventure. My favorite part about styling was creating a story with the clothing; the shop is really an extension of that. Every season, I get to create a new story and narrative with beautiful clothing, accessories, and home items. When people come into the shop and think it’s all one collection, I feel like I have been successful. I have brought together 20 brands from all over the world and made it seem like one clear vision. I wanted to create a shop that had all the cool contemporary and emerging designers I love in a casual space that is warm and welcoming. I firmly believe that fashion should be fun and not too serious. It's all about expressing yourself and bringing pretty things into your life.
Was there a specific moment in which you knew that opening a shop was something that you were going to do?
It wasn't really one specific moment- but just a longing and a feeling of wanting to create a space of my own that reflected my style and vision.
What made you want to open up shop in the Mission District? As it grows, are you having to alter or change the way your shop is experienced?
For the first 2 years of the shop I lived 3 blocks away in the Mission. Even though we sell brands from all over the world, I want Le Point to feel like your neigbourhood shop. I now have moved a little bit further to Bernal Heights, but still pretty close to the shop. The Mission felt like the right place- a younger more vibrant neighbourhood that would be open to a different style of store. First and foremost I wanted to create physical space for people to come in and experience the brands and the shop, we had no immediate plans to go online. As we progress, we opened our online shop in 2017. Now that focus has shifted in creating the same atmosphere, vibe and culture in our online store as we we have in our physical shop.
What are currently some of your favorite brands - ones that you carry or enjoy?
I believe that fashion & style should enhance your life. It should be beautiful and fun and most of all...wearable. So that is really the criteria i use for both my personal style and when buying things for the shop.
Creatures of Comfort is one my favorite brands that we carry. I feel like it really fits my lifestyle and just the modern women's lifestyle in general, its casual and cool- yet has really great design details that make it special. My go to staple is a crew neck tee- I have about 10 of them from Calder Blake. Lorod and Mr. Larkin are 2 of the smaller emerging labels we carry at the shop that also hit on all the right notes of coolness, beauty and wearability. Aside from the designers we carry at the shop I love Céline ( ...well Phoebe's Celine), Proenza Schouler, Acne studios and I am always a sucker for a beautiful designer handbag.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I think clothing can be really transformative. It’s so great and rewarding to see someone light up and feel good and confident when they try something on. I really enjoy seeing people love the items that we carry. I hope that after they take them home that they continue to bring them joy for some time. I love meeting the designers and creatives that we carry in the shop- supporting their creative endeavors. Being a smaller store, we can offer a more curated and interesting brand selection than, say, a larger chain like Barney's. We have brands that people are familiar with, but also lots of brands that are newer. We are able to educate people and give them more information about the designers and the brands we carry. I really love that aspect of it, showing people new beautiful and interesting things I've found.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with Le Point?
Thats the thing with being a small business owner - is that honestly everyday, every week and every year brings a different sort of challenge. Sometimes that challenge is a creative one like trying to find a good brand mix that we love and that our customers resonate with, and sometimes the challenges are financial - getting through a slow sales period, or a managerial challenge, like working with staff.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other? How have women supported you?
It's funny - there have been 2 aspects of my life that changed a lot in the past 3 years. 1. I changed from mostly being a freelance stylist to being a business owner + sometimes stylist and 2. Having a baby. Both are really big challenges - both pretty much happened at the same time. But I feel like both of those experience have really opened me up to a really strong supportive network of women. Women business owners, other moms and lots of #momboss out there. I feel like this is a really great time where women business owners and mom business owners are really being supported and nurtured and empowered. I belong to a few groups (The Assembly SF and Fashion Mamas) that really foster an amazing support system for women.
What women bring you inspiration?
My friends, my mom, our customers.
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Breaking things down to smaller manageable tasks. For me I have a tendency to get a little overwhelmed and anxious when I look at all of things that need to get done everyday or every week. So for me it really helps to have the big picture in mind- but then break things down to get to that end goal. I think that can be applied to any sort of business venture or creative project.
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
In general connecting with other small business owners and other shop owners has been really helpful. Both if you are in a jam and need some advice about something and then also it's also just nice to vent with someone who understands. Obviously not really a secret- but social media and Instagram are a great way to check out new designers and brands. Bullet journaling is something I have been trying to do for the past few months - mine is not one of those pretty ones you see on Instagram- but it's a great way to prioritize your tasks and and make list.
Do you have a dream collaboration?
Not really anyone in particular - but we would love to do some exclusives with some of our designers to offer something that is exclusive to Le Point. Keep your eyes open in 2019 for some special items.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
Totally not business related but I am trying to learn to be a runner. I am currently training for a half marathon. I have gone from running maybe 2-3 month to running 4-5 times a week. It's a learning process - both physically challenging myself to run that much and mentally learning push myself and also to take time for myself (which is really hard to do when you have a child and a business!)
What are some of your favorite places in San Francisco?
The Alemany Farmers Market on Saturday mornings - my son and I try and go every week. Pizzahacker & Puerto Alegre for family dinners. Vintage and home shopping at Eden + Eden and antique furniture shopping at Stuff. The beach in Pacifica and i love the casual vibe "small town" ish vibe where I live in Bernal Heights.