Looking back on a decade of Deer&Doe with Camille

Written by miranda
January 19 2023 | Behind the Scenes

Hi Camille, and happy new year! We’re a few months into Deer&Doe’s 11th year (congrats!), and now it’s your turn to answer some questions for us. 🙂 You’ve been involved with the company since almost the beginning, and a member of the online sewing community for even longer . . . when and how did you learn to sew? What appeals to you most about it?

I learned to sew in college, around 2006/2007. I had been knitting since I was a kid and hanging around in online crafting communities (anybody remember craftster.org?). I was so jealous of all the quirky dresses in weird novelty prints I was seeing . . . you couldn’t find those anywhere in stores at the time! As it turned out, my mom was taking sewing lessons that year, so I asked her to practice with me and teach me the basics. She was very insistent that I take the time to be meticulous: marking all the pieces properly, tracing cutting and seam lines, checking and measuring everything twice . . . that approach got me through years of using Burda magazine patterns with obscure instructions.

I never took lessons, I just researched techniques online and in sewing books as I went. That’s also what instilled my love of beautiful finishes, which is probably what I like the most about sewing. Of course, the ability to make and wear unique, well-fitted garments is amazing . . . but on top of that, I am a construction nerd! Learning and experimenting with new ways to manipulate fabric will never cease to fascinate me, and there is no equal to the pride I feel when achieving a perfect collar or front fly.

I’m sure that comes in handy when you are writing pattern instructions! Speaking of patterns, how did you come to meet Eléonore and get your start at Deer&Doe?

I knew of Eléonore well before she launched Deer&Doe—I was an avid reader of her personal sewing blog “Pachi Pachi”. I wasn’t a stalker, I swear! . . . but I did think of her as my personal sewing nemesis for a while. In fact, I kept ranting to my mom about how jealous I was of her productivity. It’s funny how life works sometimes!

I finally met Eléonore for the first time in 2012, at the Deer&Doe launch party she threw in a cute Parisian sewing store. I bought the Belladone and Bleuet patterns, then I remember walking up to her and blurting out something about her being an inspiration, and also that she smelled nice. I still cringe when I think about it!

That awkward first impression must have worked, though. When I answered a call she put out for an amateur model a few months later, she said she remembered me and was hoping I would apply! At the time I was working on my PhD in computer science and lived very close to her in Paris, so I started modeling the patterns and hanging out with her regularly. Sadly I moved away in 2014, when I left France to join a research team at a university in North Carolina. Though I had to quit my promising modeling career, our friendship continued to grow and I stayed involved with Deer&Doe as a very opinionated pattern tester.

That is quite the origin story! What a relief that Eléonore didn’t stay your nemesis for long. So you started as a customer, then worked as a model and pattern tester, and now you are a full-fledged partner. Can you talk us through that journey and how your role has evolved over the years?

Well, I started posing for pictures and testing patterns in early 2013, but I only joined Deer&Doe in an official capacity at the end of 2015. At the time I was getting really burnt out from my job in academia and I was starting to consider a career change. When Eléonore told me that she was looking for someone to join the company, everything just fell into place.

I initially started as a freelancer, and in that first year I quickly assumed some of the more “tedious” tasks to help free up time for Eléonore to work on new patterns. Things like answering customer emails, interacting with stockists, keeping track of inventory, writing blog posts and tutorials, etc. Once it became clear that I was a good match for Deer&Doe, I bought into the company and officially became a partner. I took over the administrative side of the business and started working alongside Eléonore on high-level decisions, like the launch of our PDF patterns in 2017.

As we continued to grow, we brought in new team members to help us work on customer service, content creation, and sample sewing, which means my role has shifted towards a more managerial position. Now, amongst many other things, I handle our project planning and try to keep everything on time for the collection releases in spring and fall. At its core though, my role still feels the same: I’m Eléonore’s right-hand woman and personal human shield. My goal is to take everything off her plate so she can focus on creating beautiful patterns!

It sounds like you two are very complementary when it comes to your individual skill sets and determining how to split tasks. What would you say is your favorite part of sharing the business with Eléonore?

Eléonore is an amazing business partner, and I cannot imagine running a company with anyone else. She is incredibly talented and has the best eye for proportions and balance of anyone I’ve ever met. She also has extremely high standards when it comes to the quality of our work and the ethics of our business, and she is constantly thinking outside of the box to come up with new ideas.

I would say we’re actually the same in a lot of ways (we’re both perfectionists with very strong opinions), but we complement each other very well in other aspects: she is brave and not afraid to make hard decisions, so I can rely on her when we’re facing tough business dilemmas; in turn, she knows that she can rely on me when it comes to managing people and handling social situations.

Running your own company (even with the help of a partner), can come with a lot of pressure and stress, and I imagine there’s a lot you’ve learned over the years. If you could go back, what advice would you give to yourself when you first started?

I would insist on the importance of a healthy work/life balance and a good daily routine. I think this is true for every job, but it’s particularly vital when you’re running a company. Every new project feels so exciting, and you want to give it your all! So you never count your hours and you end up pushing yourself too much.

Unfortunately, my living situation does not make things any easier. I live in the US with my husband, so I either work from home in a different time zone, or I travel to France and spend weeks at a time in an Airbnb close to the Deer&Doe studio. I recently finished a four-month stint in France, during which I worked non-stop evenings and weekends . . . and my health definitely took a hit.

Which is all to stay, even now I don’t think I have that work/life balance down quite yet. If future-me wants to travel back to the present and give me some advice, that’d be great! 😅

What about the sewing of it all? This has been your hobby for a long time—do you ever regret turning your passion into your job?

Not at all, but it usually surprises people to learn that very little of my job involves actual sewing. I make muslins and prototypes of the patterns to validate the fit and construction, but the vast majority of my time is spent at the computer.

I’m also not the one who does the design and patternmaking—that’s all Eléonore. I do have input and give suggestions based on what I think is missing from our collection or what I’d like to wear . . . and if I’m lucky the pattern of my dreams becomes a reality! That’ll never cease to feel magical.

I think it also helps that I have many other craft hobbies: knitting, crochet, embroidery, quilting, weaving, just to name a few. Right now I’m working on designing a jewelry collection! So even if I didn’t feel like sewing in my free time, I still have plenty of creative outlets.

How cool! So do you have a favorite Deer&Doe pattern? What about patterns from other brands?

I’m a big fan of maxi skirts, so I would have to say Fumeterre. Oh and also Coquelicot, Magnolia, Orchidée, Circée . . . sorry, it’s too hard to choose just one! That being said, most of my wardrobe right now consists of Plantain and Dressed t-shirts, plus all kinds of variations of Orage. My size fluctuates a lot at the moment and I really crave comfort when I’m working from home, so knits are often my go-to.

When it comes to other brands, surprisingly, my two go-to patterns are not from indie companies but from the Big 4! Butterick 5748 and McCall’s 7121 (unfortunately the latter is out of print). They’re both pretty basic but the proportions are perfect and they instantly make me feel beautiful and confident. Recently I’ve made a couple Jenny Overalls from Closet Core Patterns that I really love, and I’m midway through a pair of Dawn Jeans from Megan Nielsen that fit my style perfectly. I’m pretty sure those two are going to be my new staples.

Speaking of other pattern brands, let’s zoom out for a bit. You’ve been involved in the sewing community in some form for a long time now. How do you think things have changed in the last ten years? Are there some things for the better, some things you miss?

The sewing community definitely feels more inclusive today then it did ten years ago. Many more companies now account for different styles, sizes, or gender expressions, and it’s amazing to see so many diverse people come together around our shared passion for sewing. There’s also been a shift towards a more global community: the French sewing community used to be a microcosm, but now French patterns are known around the world and in turn, French sewists get to experience patterns from every horizon.

And then there’s content. Sewing content moved from blogs to Instagram pictures, then to Instagram stories, and now short-form video content like Reels and TikToks reign supreme. I do miss very detailed blog posts, but when I look back at my own abandoned blog I wonder how I ever had the time to write all that!

The technology and platform shifts can certainly feel like a lot to keep up with sometimes. Where do you see Deer&Doe in the next ten years? Are there any “big” or crazy projects you’d love to take on?

This is so hard to say! So much has happened in the last ten years, and the sewing industry is still going through some major changes: more and more companies are moving away from physical products (including us), and some are even switching to subscription-based models. Who knows what sewing patterns will look like in ten years?

I also believe that the climate crisis and the environmental reckoning in the fashion industry will have a dramatic effect on the way we relate to clothes, and I think home sewing will have a big role to play in that. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m excited to be a part of it.

One thing I know for sure is that I want to keep working with Eléonore for as long as she’ll let me.

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