All photography is by Karen Pissarra, of Design K.
Being effortlessly chic the Parisian way isn’t an acquired thing: you are born with it. And the two mamas behind Panpan Cucu, Aurélia and Marine, are amongst the lucky ones born with ‘it’.
If you have not heard about Panpan Cucu yet, start getting used to the name. It is a bi-monthly private sale of a curated collection of the chicest pre-loved children’s clothes and accessories for ages 0 to 10, from high street brands like Zara, Bout’chou, Jacadi and Petit Bateau, to high end brands like Bonpoint and Bonton, and with no less than 800 items available at every private sale!
To build up their stock, Aurélia and Marine hold one-on-one meetings with mums who are looking to clear out their kids’ wardrobes off outgrown clothes. They then select the pieces that they feel fall within the Panpan Cucu concept and that are in near-new condition, and once a price is agreed per lot, items are stored for the following sale and kept for up to 3 sales. If after that period they have not found a new owner, Panpan Cucu donates them to the Dubai Center for Special Needs. What is there not to love about this business model: eco-friendly, people friendly and giving back!
Having been friends since Uni when they were studying Communications in Paris, they have the closeness and understanding needed to be business partners while keeping their friendship intact. Not only are the mamas close friends, but their children, very close in age (who by the way, are so good looking they could do modelling for a living!), are too. Read on to learn how they decided to start their business and what it is like to be a duo mum-preneur, while you drool over the uber-cool interiors of Marine's villa in Dubai.
If you would like to grab your bargain(s), know that Panpan Cucu’s next private sale takes place this coming weekend, Saturday 15 April from 10am to 6pm and Sunday 16 April from 9am to 2pm.
There will also be some French deliciousness in the form of a healthy buffet for the kids provided by Petit Gourmet, ultra healthy drinks by koldpressJUICEko, items on sale from our beloved Caramel & Sun, and activities to keep the little people entertained while the mums shop, all while celebrating Easter – it could not be any more perfect!
What inspired you to create Panpan Cucu?
M&A: In Dubai, the shopping malls are huge. Sometimes going shopping for the children means going to two or three different malls and stores. This can be stressful and time-consuming – and even more so if you have to take your children with you. What's more, quality children's clothes in Dubai can be expensive, especially when the kids are going through a growth spurt and grow out of their clothes within weeks. But this also means that there's an abundance of near-new, preloved quality clothing. So we decided to make the whole shopping experience fun by taking the stress out of other mums' lives, bringing our favourite clothing brands to one space and inviting our mum friends to enjoy a day of friendly shopping. Over the months, and thanks to word of mouth, our clientele has grown and continues to grow with every private sale.
What does 'Panpan Cucu' mean? Where does the name come from?
M&A: It's a popular French expression. Children who behave well at school get a "bon point" (like a sticker for good behaviour), while the naughty ones are told, playfully, that if they don't behave, they'll get a "panpan cucu". It basically means a friendly little smack on the bottom! We're also making a contrast with Bonpoint, which is the name of a famous, high-end, French children's clothing brand. Panpan Cucu is the opposite of Bonpoint, as our concept is based entirely on second-hand items.
Why did you decide to build this concept together?
M&A: Our paths first crossed when we were studying at the EFAP Communication School in Paris, 14 years ago! We stayed in touch, then we met up again in Dubai two years ago. Aurélia had already moved out here a few years earlier. We both had our second child within months of each other, built up a strong friendship and really connected with each other. With our eldest children in school, we had some free time and we both wanted to start up this project, selling second-hand clothing and accessories for children, from newborns to 10-year-olds.
How do you find working together?
M&A: It's always more motivating and enriching when you work in a team – especially when it's two people who really complement each other and work well together. We usually do everything together: select clothes, photoshoots, spread the word about our concept, organise private sales, partnerships, etc. Aurélia tends to be the numbers and people person, while Marine is the creative one, but all decisions are made together.
We spend hours on the telephone or brainstorming new ideas to develop our concept. But after 6 pm, we stop talking and focus on our families, because it's time to give the kids their baths, make dinner, read the bedtime stories and spend some quality time with our husbands.
What lessons have you learnt from opening your business as mums?
M&A: Very simple lessons and very simple solutions! We meet in the morning, when our kids are at school or the nursery. The rest of the day is dedicated to our children and their various activities. Often, we'll meet up in the afternoon with our tribe of 'enfants terribles': Mael (7), Maxine (6), Lila (2) and Olive (16 months). That way, we can mix work with pleasure. The kids are the 'models' for our photoshoots, so people can get a glimpse of the outfits we'll be selling, but they also like to meet up for a playdate. They always love to get together, and so do we!
What are the lessons you have learnt from motherhood?
A: The moments I held my son and daughter in my arms for the first time will always be the most beautiful moments of my life! I always wanted to have a big family, with at least three children. For now, I have two! Even if having a child is always a huge change in your life, and you do have to make some sacrifices (like no more lie-ins or changing your holiday plans!), being a mum has meant enjoying some truly unique, precious moments with my little monsters. And I wouldn't trade those moments for anything in the world!
M: Above all, motherhood means that you are no longer living for yourself. You're living for your children first; they're the priority. Before I became a mum, I would never have thought that you could love someone so much and give so much without expecting anything in return. Motherhood enabled me to be a fulfilled woman – much more than a career could have done…
Do you have any tips on time management and how to find balance, for other mums who might be looking at opening a business?
M: I think that the best thing for the balance of mums is to make sure you're available to spend quality time with your kids. It's important to work, of course, but also to be there for your children: helping with their homework, playing a board game, baking a cake, reading their bedtime story, taking a dip in the sea, running on the beach, organising playdates for the weekend or painting workshops, etc. It's important that children feel they are our priority!
A: Most days have a similar pattern. I work in the morning while the children are at school and the nursery. I make time for them every afternoon, so I can take them to activities, play with them, or just go for walks along the beach.
When we have a sale on or it's a really busy time, we're lucky to have our super nanny to take over!
Who is your biggest inspiration as a woman?
A: Coco Chanel! She's a true icon and was one of the first women to revolutionise fashion with her 'French chic' style.
Her name is still huge in the world of fashion and fragrance! For me, she's a wonderful example of success, courage and determination.
M: Since my adolescence, I've admired George Sand. She was a famous author, born in 1804, and caused quite a scandal with her romantic affairs, masculine clothing and male pseudonym. Despite her many detractors, she lived her life the way she wanted and started new trends, during what was a very conservative period.
What are your plans and dreams for Panpan Cucu?
M&A: The adventure has only just begun! Panpan Cucu will celebrate its first anniversary in June. There are lots of possibilities open to us, so it's an exciting challenge. In the long term, we'd love it if Panpan Cucu could become 'the place to shop' for mums in Dubai!
All photography is by Karen Pissarra, of Design K.
Karen is a multi-talented soul with an eye for detail and incredible style. She designs interior spaces, is an artist and a photographer too who works with natural light and does on location photography. She has a particular love for small children's photography, to capture their innocence and to create a visual memory for many years to come. Do visit her website Design K for more on her fabulous work!