Les filles et les chiens in Ghent
Les filles et les chiens in Ghent
Behind “Les Filles et Les Chiens” is hidden Helen, an illustrator and rollergirl converted into a real business woman. In a few years, she has made her shop a unique place in Ghent, and carefully selects each season original and trendy pieces. We pass there with pleasure to chat or just to find clothes for men and women. We spoke with Helen to learn more about the creation of the concept store, through anecdotes and artistic discoveries …
Hi Helen! Can you talk to us a little bit about how your shop came to be?
Well…I actually rolled into it. I am a Team member of the Gent Go-Go Rollergirls (a roller derby team based in Gent) and about 5 years ago, I met a friend, Barbara, who was also at a point in her life that she needed some change on a professional level. We were talking fashion, and a few days later I spontaneously asked her to start something together. She just agreed. From that moment on, we started the search for a great location in Gent. Our first idea was to do a shoe store but when our current location caught our eye, it was too big for just shoes. And so we decided to make it a fashion concept store. I don’t like that word too much, but anyway, it’s the most suitable name. We focus exclusively on good quality, comfy men and women’s clothing. Since we’re too girls in a rather romantic looking store, it was quite a difficult start for the mens collection. But we didn’t order too much, we took it step by step, and I must say, by now we are a well established and well known men’s shop. Still not 50/50, but enough for every man to find his style.
After some time, Barbara and I split up as partners because she moved on to a different adventure in her life. I took over and for the past 4 years, Les Filles et Les Chiens has been alive and kicking. I must say it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but I love running the business so up until now I have weathered the storms and I will keep on doing it for a long, long time.
What did you do before embarking on this adventure?
I studied graphic design at the art academy of Ghent, and after school I held a job at a graphic office for Colruyt supermarkets. There I realized I wasn’t cut out for the 9 to 5. Six months later, I left and started doing freelance graphic design work. Still not challenging enough, I ended up with my lovely shop.
“Les Filles et Les Chiens” is a strange name for a clothes shop! How did this come about?
It is the title of a song of Jaques Brel. It also refers to the differences between women and men, in a humorous way. I just adore our name and logo. All credits for the name go to Barbara though.
What were your inspirations for the layout and decoration of your shop?
The shop didn’t need much decoration, as it is a marvelous piece of art by itself. All the doors and ceilings are covered in old time painted symbolic decorations. Because we couldn’t harm any walls for that reason, our shop decoration had to be totally on wheels, and white, otherwise it would conflict with all the romantic paintings.
The logo lay out was made by a friend who did an incredible job with it and I will never change it. I still get a lot of compliments for it.
Do you have a little anecdote that has stuck with you since opening your shop?
Oh… I have plenty! But some I will keep to myself. One that I CAN share is a moment that I loved. The shop’s changing rooms are in fact big closets. Everybody knows what it means to come out of the closet, So this man once went into the the changing room/closet. The moment he came out, he also released his love for the same gender and that touched me.
What are your criteria for choosing new brands and clothes for each new season on?
I am a person who likes to keep the same brands I am content with. For me that doesn’t just mean a good sales, but also a nice contact with the distributers and the brand itself. Since we put quite some money in it, I find it rather important to be treated fairly and with mutual respect. To be honest, a lot of distributers miss that and then I just stop with those brands. Luckily, it hasn’t happened very often. In the beginning I had some more expensive brands, and I felt that those were only selling in the sales period, so after some seasons, I decided to not go for the high segment anymore. I opted to stay with the for middle segment with good quality. From than on it became an upwards trend. When it’s made in Europe, like Olow and some other brands I sell, I love it, but it’s not my main criteria. I just love it when it happens to be the case, and when it’s made in China for example, I always try to find out if it’s produced ethically. People feel it’s important, and they’re right.
What made you want to distribute our brand OLOW in Les Filles et Les Chiens?
When I discovered Olow, I wanted to do order almost instantaneously. I liked the look, the colors, and the fact that you work with young, upcoming artists is just so cool. I can relate, since I am an illustrator myself.
If you had to sum up your shop in three words, what would they be?
From the heart.
Do you ever hold artist exhibitions or parties in your shop?
Yes, we do late night sales a few times a year, you can also rent the shop for color and style analyze parties. For the art part, I worked together with Avandgant, 2 great photographers; with Aft, a streetartist and Toon Delanote, An illustrator of Ghent. Furthermore, I hang my own works sometimes and sell them.
Is opening an e-shop part of your future projects?
I started once, to realize it was a crazy job and I didn’t really enjoy that part, I only want to put lots of energy in things I love to do. I don’t love running a webshop at all, so why would I want to be doing it. People love coming to my shop for the location, and the Parov Stellar music always playing. It has a special kind of atmosphere, there’s good vibes and you don’t get that from clicking on your computer.
If you had to tell us about an artist in your area, who would it be?
It would be the guys from Punctum, a rather new tattooshop in Ghent. I am kind of apprentice there now and I look up to the work of these guys. Just have a look on their Facebook page, great graphic style they have.
And to finish, can you give us any hotspots where you like to hang out in Gent?
Ghent is a small city, but so beautiful and friendly. You have lots of great old buildings and a great spot next to the water: Graslei. In summer, everybody hangs out there with a bottle of wine. For the rest, all the small fashionshops, my colleagues in the retail business, I love them all. We are in this together, fighting the big chain stores.
Thank you to Helen.
Find Les filles et les chiens on Facebook.
Photo: Helen Wouters
– L.K –