10 Years Later, an Interview with Eléonore

Written by miranda
November 22 2022 | Behind the Scenes

Hi Eléonore! First of all, congrats on 10 years of Deer&Doe. That is a huge accomplishment and something to be very proud of. Would you mind starting by telling us a bit about your life before Deer&Doe, and what inspired you to start the company?

I am a computer engineer by training, and before launching Deer&Doe I helped develop management solutions for companies, followed by a stint at a Parisian web agency. Notably, I got to work on the development of websites and promotional games for brands like Nespresso and Ben&Jerry’s ice cream.

It was during my engineering studies that I started to sew in order to help me decompress after class. I learned on my own, using tutorials I found online and a lot of trial and error ( . . . the first thing I decided to sew was a corset, so I was not afraid of a challenge! 😅). At the time, I didn’t know anybody who shared my passion for sewing, which is why I started frequenting sewing forums to connect with like-minded people. Shortly after graduating, I used my web development skills to launch a French-speaking platform dedicated to sewing called Thread&Needles. (I later handed off management of this site when I created Deer&Doe, but I’m pleased to report it still exists!).

Then, a few years after graduation, I found myself starting to question my choice in a professional career. A serious family event was the final straw that pushed me to more seriously explore my passion for sewing and turn it into my career. Originally, I imagined myself partnering with a professional pattern maker, but this plan ended up falling through very early into the project. Encouraged by a friend, I decided to carry on and instead train myself in pattern making (using books and the help of a mentor). I can say without a doubt now that that was one of the best decisions I ever made! I not only love my job, but the quality of our patterns (which I continue to directly manage) is the foundation of our success today.

It must have been a big change to go from an employee coding all day to an entrepreneur in a creative field. What were some of the things that surprised you along the way? Is there advice you would give yourself looking back?

In the last ten years, I’ve had so many wonderful surprises. First of all, the immediate success of the brand as soon as it was launched—a success that I was far from anticipating and am so grateful for. There was also the arrival of Camille, and our switch to a two-person company which changed the course of Deer&Doe for the better. But there have been bad surprises too, all of which were lessons along the way. The worst was probably a business partnership that fell through, and if I could go back and give myself advice it would be: always consult a lawyer before signing on to any commercial partnerships.

Apart from this disappointment, if I had to do it all again, I don’t think I’d do anything differently. I’m proud of the path I’ve traveled and all the things I’ve had the opportunity to learn over these ten years. My successes, but also my failures, have allowed me to stay passionate about my profession. Even if the seasons of fatigue and burn-out are inevitable when you’ve been an entrepreneur for so long, I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

So clearly there have been some big shifts internally at Deer&Doe over the last ten years. What about the sewing community, how has that changed?

The sewing community has changed a lot since the creation of Deer&Doe. When I first launched the brand, the only patterns we had available were the “Big 4” (Vogue, McCalls, Butterick, and Simplicity), Burda with their old-fashioned style, and Japanese patterns (in Japanese!), which had modern and attractive designs, but were not a great block for the average French sewist. Sewing was still a niche hobby back then, and Instagram had yet to surpass blogging. All of these factors created an environment of discovery and experimentation—one where each indie brand arrived as a pioneer and there was enough space in the market for each to grow at their own pace.

Today, this formerly niche hobby has taken off thanks to Instagram, Tik Tok and popular shows on the subject, as well as a global desire for sustainable development. So many new indie brands have since emerged—in France alone, the search engine Polaris lists 62 pattern companies! This has not only made the market more competitive, but it’s created an atmosphere of fatigue for customers who find themselves oversaturated with new pattern releases. It’s in this context that the demands on pattern companies have skyrocketed, and you have to be willing to constantly question yourself in order to continue innovating rather than just reacting to criticism. But this expansion of the sewing community has also opened the field to a richer diversity of styles, body types, lifestyles . . . and we know that it’s diversity that generates creativity!

How has your day-to-day work life shifted? What would you say was your biggest gamechanger from day one to today?

My working days have evolved a lot over the last ten years. When it all started, I did absolutely everything myself: from pattern development to customer service, packing and shipping orders to website development, and writing blog posts and taking product photos . . . just to name a few! Today, I focus on fewer tasks, but my days are still so busy! I generally alternate between the design and development of new patterns: styling, drafting, sewing toiles, grading, the writing and layout of instructions (which are my main focus); and communication with the rest of the team. It is rare that a day passes without me advising on a customer service question, discussing content for the blog or Instagram with our community management team, talking with Camille about our ongoing projects, fitting our models, or selecting final pictures after a photoshoot.

This aspect of my job can be hard for me to manage sometimes, as I am very introverted. Fortunately, I can count on Camille, who has played an indispensable role in the growth of Deer&Doe and the maintenance of my mental health. She creates and manages schedules and task lists, coordinates and communicates with our various team members and contractors, and takes care of all the necessary operations that go into properly running a company. She also monitors the quality of the products (it’s thanks to her that you will never see a punctuation error in our instruction booklets 😂) and still finds the time to sew our patterns and model for our videos! She’s a golden partner, and honestly the only person I could have seen myself running a business with. We both share a common work ethic and a passion for a job well done.

10 years is a long time to design, and Deer&Doe has built quite the library of patterns in that time! How do you continue to find inspiration, and are your personal favorites in the collection?

I’ve always drawn my inspiration from fashion: even before falling in love with sewing, I’ve always loved clothing . . . not just its history but also what it can tell us about us. Over the years, I’ve experimented and had some mishaps along the way. It’s really liberating to allow yourself to explore new styles in order to revive your creativity and not just wither away . . . but it can quickly make you lose direction, too. We spent a lot of time this year reflecting on what makes the essence of Deer&Doe . . . timeless, chic outfits, but also easy to wear and imbued with femininity. These are the ideas I come back to when I’m feeling inspired but want to make sure we’re maintaining an artistic coherence throughout our collections.

As for my personal favorites—I’m hypersensitive, and I attach great importance to the comfort of a garment and the way it will feel throughout the day. Given that, it’s no surprise that I adore Orage in all its versions, the Sirocco jumpsuit, and the Acajou pants (which I find both chic and comfortable). For basics, I never tire of the Dressed t-shirt and the Givre tank top, especially combined with something like the Dressed culottes, for example.

When you think back, what are you most proud of? Are there any projects you’d love to take on in the next ten years?

I am really proud of all the projects we have undertaken since the creation of Deer&Doe: the translation of patterns into English, the launch of our PDF patterns, publishing a book, the addition of our second range of sizes . . . and so many smaller developments, too. With 46 patterns to our credit (and 55 if we count our Dressed book), my craziest dream would be to manage to take some time for myself . . . but I’m not there yet! In a world that is currently experiencing major political, climatic, financial and structural changes, I aim above all to continue to build a stable and sustainable company. One that is faithful to my values, and whose financial viability is not built on the release of a new pattern every month. It’s in this spirit that my big project this year ahead is to focus on our communication efforts, and share more about what makes up the day-to-day life of Deer&Doe.

3 commentaires

Karina, November 25 2022 Reply

I love hearing a bit about your story. Thanks for sharing it. I love your patterns and you are my 17 year old favorite pattern company. Thanks for sharing such beautiful designs.

Christine Livingston, November 26 2022 Reply

So happy to find sewing inspiration neatly folded within your patterns.

Amy, November 27 2022 Reply

Here’s to ten more years!!! Love your designs

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