Natalia Ferreira owner of Les Gamins Chic

Creating Sustainable Style with Les Gamins Chics founder, Natalia Ferreira

French-born and Melbourne-living mum-of-three, Natalia Ferreira, loves style but is dismayed at the terrible ecological impact of the fast-fashion industry. Determined to do something about it, she created Les Gamins Chics, an online boutique for pre-loved children’s clothes that combines her two passions – style and sustainability. 

How did you come up with the idea for Les Gamins Chics?

I love fashion and I’ve always wanted to have a sustainable life and I thought those two don’t go together. But when we moved to Australia I discovered op-shops and in France you can’t find any op-shops anywhere. I was excited to go to op-shops and always find some treasures and  I thought “well I’m not buying new so I guess it’s okay’. Then I quickly realised that op-shops don’t always have a very nice range of clothes and it’s always the same brands from the fast fashion industry. When I had my daughter (Juliette, 8 months) I had so many presents and I thought “oh she’s not going to wear all this” and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels they have too many clothes. So I thought how cool would it be to find nice clothes in one place – pre-loved clothes – so people start thinking about consuming fashion in a different way.

How is your store different?

You’d probably be more likely to buy something that is better quality and maybe a little more expensive if you knew you could sell it later. The idea really is to have a more circular industry where you buy, you sell, and someone else can benefit from it. It should expand the lifespan of clothes from one year to two years, which would reduce emissions by 24% over one year.

“The idea is to buy less but better.”

The idea is that parents can find something on the website that suits their budget, that is pre-loved, but in excellent condition. I am quite strict on the condition of the clothes as well because the idea is that people buy it and we sell it again. The idea is that they get multiple lives.

What do you see is wrong with the way children’s fashion works currently?

I think when you need to buy a t-shirt for your kids it’s much easier to go to BigW, Kmart, or Target and buy a $10 t-shirt, wear it a few times and then give it to an op-shop. I’ve read somewhere that only 15 per cent of the clothes given to op-shops are sold in Australia the rest go to landfill or to underdeveloped countries where they end up in a landfill as well. And not all the cheap clothes are biodegradable, clothes made from polyester take up to 200 years for something to disappear.

There’s this idea that it’s always better to buy new but there are clothes that are gorgeous and are in excellent condition and it would be a shame to spend so much money on buying new. So if we can give clothes multiple lives that’s perfect, but of course to do that you need good quality clothes.

Les Gamins Chic will also buy good quality used clothes to sell online:

I’ve listed the brands that I like and if it was something from one of those brands I would take it without even seeing a picture because I like everything and I know it fits with what we have got already. If it’s a brand I don’t know I will ask people to send me photos of what they’ve got and if I like it then I will ask them to send to me.

How would you describe the style of the collections at Les Gamins Chics?

I would say probably the French style – timeless, casual chic.  I‘ve started having mainly French brands because they’re brands I know well and I know that they’re good quality.  You can tell by the fabric right away if it’s cheap or if it is good quality, definitely. I like things that are very simple and elegant, I would say. I don’t like when there are lots of drawings going on, it’s not the style I am after. I would love to introduce more Australian brands like really good quality brands and organic, ethical clothes.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I wake up early, six or even before. I try to work for an hour and a half before everyone wakes up in the house. And then its a bit of juggling between drop off at child care and school. I have my five-year-old, Arthur, starting school next year so he goes to kinder but not every day. I don’t do much during the day to be honest because the baby doesn’t sleep much. I’m often feeding her and writing emails, or going to the post office with her. Next year my little girl is starting childcare for two days so I’m hoping I will have time for the project. It’s just me and I’m just starting it so it’s difficult.

What is your next step for Les Gamins Chics?

I would like to have bigger sizes. At the moment I only have things for babies and toddlers, so zero to size three. I want to go up to sizes seven or eight. I would love to have more eco-friendly and ethical brands as well so in the end, we only work with organic clothes.

I’m working on another idea – if you have lots of good quality clothes you want to sell that fits with what we’ve got I will ask you to take a picture at your place and I can add it on the website. Once it’s sold I can send you their address and I will pay you back the shipping fee and for the clothes and you can send it. That way I don’t have to have the clothes here and we send fewer parcels -which is better for the environment.

Natalia FerrieraNatalia Ferreira runs Les Gamins Chics from her Melbourne home where she lives with her husband, Jean-Marc, and their three children, Timothé (9), Arthur (5) and Juliette (8 months).