In conversation with Pauline Cousseau
We had a pleasure speaking with Pauline Cousseau founder and CEO of polette eyewear.
Tell our readers who you are in your own words.
I believe I am a very passionate, determined, caring & committed person. I always wanted to explore the world and challenge myself so founding my company and creating a brand was a given from a very young age. Few mistakes were made along the way of course but I learnt a lot from the people I work with & grew with the company. Bouncing back is a passion of mine apparently!
What is your first memory of fashion and design?
My grandma dressed up in what we would call 'vintage' fashion, and I loved it. I was wearing her big acetate white glasses with brown lenses – not at all adjusted to my eyesight but just for fun! She had the best taste. Beautiful glasses, attached to the gorgeous golden chains…I adored it! Actually, I still have those frames at home. And now, here I am, surrounded by many more…
Among all the glasses you have designed, which one embodies your personality the most?
The Pauline in red because it was inspired by my life in China. This frame was actually worn by Miss China in 2014. The red, of course, is the colour of China but the shape represents to me the mix of two cultures: European & Chinese. Straight bridge for any nose, round and big to make a statement.
What inspired you to start your eyewear brand back in 2011?
The lack of transparency and the lie around the traditional optical market!
Out of a factory, a frame costs around 7€ and we always paid huge prices in Europe. I wanted to understand why and to bring revolution to this market! Let me bring you back to 2011: no Instagram, beginning of Facebook & the first steps of e-commerce. To revolutionise and stop this unfairness of the optical industry, we created polette.
We designed, produced, displayed online our collections & sent our products directly to the final customer. No intermediaries! No extra costs! Just quality, fashion & fairness!
Who is the one voice that has inspired you the most in your personal life and your career?
Ouch, that is a difficult question! I do not have one specifically but so many. My business partners for sure, Pierre and Aladin, they support and challenge me every day. The most important are the people I love. I value their opinion & their insights on life.
All of them, very different but always combative and positive people. My family and friends give me the honest mirror effect I need!
What is the most daring thing you did during the lockdown times?
The most daring thing I did during the lockdown? Would I dare say it? I would say traveling. I have always been traveling since I am 19 and to me these travel regulations were very hard to accept. So, at first, I stayed put but after a while I went (respecting all safety measures, of course) wherever I could.
What is your personal motto?
Honestly? Carpe Diem! You have one life, make the most of it.
What are your upcoming projects for this year? What are the new launches and collections you have coming out?
Sustainability!! I want to scream about it from the rooftops!
We are the FIRST optical company doing it, and after two years of research by our technical and product teams – we made it! I am very proud of it and want to continue building this journey more and more! We have two collections: one made from Eco-Acetate – which are plant seeds-based materials that have no chemicals; the other one – is Recycled Acetate, which is made of all the off-cuts of glasses that have been already produced. The off-cuts are mixed together and then we use it to create a new magnificent frame.
Also, in the very near future, we will be opening more connected showrooms across Europe!
With work you have travelled a lot. What are some of the favourite places you have seen and been to so far and why?
It's a tough question, depending on what you are looking for. China is amazing! I love the culture and the people. I recommend a trip to anyone in need of understanding what is happening there.
Of course, it is not all magical, but you will find amazing people, landscapes and architecture. I love Africa as well: I went to Tanzania, Kenya & South Africa. All countries are very different but always a marvellous experience! I am pretty sure I will be spending more time there in the future.
What is your biggest outtake from last year?
It was a hard year for everyone, and it made me even more grateful and passionate about the company that we built. Our digital-first business model and values proved to be the future, withstanding a crisis that no one expected to reach this magnitude. Our website welcomed new customers looking to make their days at home brighter and our connected showrooms were able to stay open to perform free eye-tests by our professional opticians. It helped us to keep the focus on our next and most important goal – sustainability. My biggest outtake from this year is that now I am even more certain that with our amazing quality products, values and team – nothing is impossible. We will get where we want to go.
As the theme of our new issue is ELEMENTS and it is about sustainability, nature. Tell us about your perspective on sustainability and environment.
My grandfather, who I loved & respected a lot, was a very skilled gardener and a nature lover. He could give you the names of all the birds and grow any plants, veggies or fruits. I grew up "helping" him. His love for nature transpired on me for sure. Since then, I have always been careful and respectful. Surely, not perfect but trying to get better every day. I really love nature & find our Earth fascinating! That is also why in our company, we do our best to act in a sustainable manner: we have no stocks in the showrooms or factories, and from the first sustainable collection, we now are one by one launching all our products made only from sustainable materials.
Tell us more about your fully sustainable collection.
At polette, we’re committed to sustainability as it is our top priority. We have always worked to minimise our environmental impact. Thanks to our customised on-demand products and the no stock policy in all our showrooms and the lab. Now our eco-acetate and recycled acetate collection take that commitment one step further! Our sustainable collection is yet another step for polette to make our brand 100% circular and environmentally friendly. All of the 34 models of this collection are made from the eco-acetate that uses plant seeds, making the products bio-based. The frames are biodegradable at 60% after 150 days.
Can you describe to our readers how a purchase of your glasses works at one of your stores? Also, do you have any new store openings coming up?
We don’t have stores but revolutionary showrooms where our customers can try our latest designs and get a free eye test with amazing professional opticians! Everything is done online, the connected showrooms are completely digital. We don’t have a cashier desk and as sustainability is our main concern, we don’t have any stocks. Every frame has a QR code which customers can scan, add their prescription (which also has a QR code!) and get their frames delivered straight to their home! For now, we have eight showrooms located in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK. When it comes to the new openings, we launched our Spanish online store last year, while German and Italian ones will be live in the coming months. The opening of the showrooms in those countries will follow as soon as the current situation stabilizes, and we have plans to host many more opening parties in the next couple of years!