We sat down with Danielle Norton-Chevrot, founder of racines, importer and distributor of beautiful, tactile and consciously crafted lifestyle pieces for the home and wardrobe.
Tell us a bit about the story behind racines. What was your inspiration and your brand mission?
racines represents a new business direction for me, a culmination of 14 years in the industry. I have been importing and distributing high end fashion and lifestyle products from Europe since 2008...but in the last few years as the climate crisis has become more palpable, I have found myself drawn towards a number of brands which have made sustainability their number one "raison d’être". I have also found myself captivated by slow fashion and living and I am more and more interested in products that bear the marks of their origins - the techniques and handiwork that went into making them and the natural fibres and materials that define them. What is more, I have been gravitating towards colours and textures that call to mind the natural world; the raw, the subtle nuances and the beauty in the detail.
The result of this shift in focus is the launch of racines – a new business that brings together brands such as Bosabo, Couleur Chanvre, Sophie Digard and Mary Gaitani - brands with whom we work to offer our stockists a superb range of scarves, bags, footwear, loungewear, jewellery and homewares. These are wares that are entirely hand crafted to order from the finest and most eco-sensitive fibres and materials available. They are products that are as beautiful as they are sustainable.
What sets racines apart from the others?
What sets us apart is the fact that we can help our stockists create a truly unique and sustainable product offering for their store (or stores). We encourage our customers to be uninhibited and creative as they make their selection of products from the myriad of styles, sizes, fibres, materials and exquisite colourways we offer, all inspired by the beauty of nature. We want them to create a truly unique product offering for their stores that complements their product mix, their brand and their personality. The possibilities are endless.
How did you come up with your new business name?
I wanted to find a business name that was a reflection of this new shift in my business journey, but also spoke to my personal journey. racines is French for roots, and more figuratively, for source and origins. I think it reflects the raw beauty of the natural fibres and materials that go into our products, and the handiwork and traditional techniques that are used to make them.
It is also a word that alludes to my heritage. I grew up on a farm in regional NSW and have a deep connection to the land and to one of our most precious natural resources - our trees. A French word as a business name is also very fitting for me as I am bilingual in French and English and I am bi-national. I met my (now) husband Paul in France more than 20 years ago while I was a business student there, and Paul subsequently put his roots down (see what I did there!) in Australia so we could be together. Luckily for us, our work requires we spend time travelling between the two countries and working with many wonderful French brands and companies - so France never feels very far away and we feel equally connected to both countries.
What do your customers love about your products?
Our customers love the fact that our products are custom made to order, for each and every store. This allows our stockists to truly differentiate their product offering from other stores in their suburb or town, and ever more importantly, from the slew of other fashion accessories and homeware products for sale online. After such a difficult few years with Covid 19 and the horrifying fires and floods that so many people have faced, I think it only natural to help retailers find a way of making their business more sustainable, both from a natural resources point of view, and also from a financial point of view. They cannot afford to be selling the same products as every other store in today’s highly digitalized retail climate. Nor can they be selling products that ignore the climate crisis that we are facing. So I want facilitate and accompany retailers as they make the necessary adjustments to their business models.
What path led you to Life Instyle and what is it about the show that makes it a great fit for you?
To meet and connect with customers, potential customers, and stylists, in person, is fundamental to the very nature of my business. Most of my product lines do not lend themselves to digital catalogues or a generic sale processes because they are tactile and beg to be touched. And most importantly, I want our customers to be uninhibited and creative as they make their selection from the myriad of styles, sizes, fibres, materials and nuanced colourways we offer …something that is very difficult to achieve remotely. So it was essential to show the collection at a fair that provided an environment conducive to this tactile and collaborative sales process. A fair that supported and celebrated handmade, sustainable and ethically made products, and a fair that appealed to retailers who shared those values. So for me LifeinStyle ticked all the boxes!
Quick Fire Questions:
What is the best piece of business advice you have been given?
“Do what you love, and love what you do”. It was one of the first pieces of advice I remember receiving and it was one of the reasons I started my import and distribution business way back in 2008. But this advice still speaks me today. It is why my businesses aims and objectives have changed and evolved over time, in unison with my personal values. racines is the product of this evolution, and it will allow me to carry on “loving what I do”. I want to feel like I am leaving a legacy with my work - making a positive contribution to future generations by supporting Australian retailers as they shift their own focus to slow living and sustainability by offering more unique and custom, handmade product lines in their stores.
Where do you see racines in 5 years?
I would love to see racines continue to work with European brands on the forefront of sustainable production practices and perhaps even collaborate with them to include more fibres and materials from Australia in their product development. For example; I would love to help Bosabo continue to break ground in the slow footwear movement, of which the Australian market has been at the forefront. I think more collaborations with Australian fashion brands will also be on the cards as Bosabo have had great success in that space in Europe. And I know inimitable Sophie Digard is very keen to work with us to incorporate more ethical Australian wool into her work in the future. She already uses our fine merino wool in her beautiful crocheted scarves….but there is a lot of scope for the broader wools to be used in her crocheted bags and also in homewares. And finally, I think our friends at Couleur Chanvre in France would be keen to pursue the possibility of combining their beautiful hemp with our ethical Australian wool to create exciting new mixed fibre fabrics. And why not bring some of the amazing sustainable manufacturing technology and know-how from Europe to Australia!! For example, I think a sustainable hemp textile industry would have amazing potential in Australia and we could learn a lot from trail-blazers in France like Couleur Chanvre. The possibilities are mind-boggling!
What is your dream travel destination?
I was lucky enough to get back to France in January to visit family and (finally) get to catch up, in person, with all our wonderful suppliers in France. We are going again in July, and I can’t wait, but this time I would also love to fit in a trip to visit to our beautiful new supplier in Athens. I met Mary Gaitani at a trade show in Paris and her custom textile jewellery creations captivated me almost as much as her wonderful persona. I can’t wait to visit her in her home town and meet her clever team of makers. And a little side-trip to the Greek Islands would not be bad either!