WWW — Talking with Simple comme Bonjour about their (love)journey.
Talking with Simple comme Bonjour about their (love)journey — A simple, but amusing way to dive into the brand and learn all about their story.
Simple comme Bonjour has been creating unique, meaningful jewelry for almost 20 years. The creative brains of goldsmith Inneke combined with Maarten’s business skills make this possible. The close connection with their customers make sure they create every piece with love and passion. The result? A customized and unique design that fits your personality like a glove! For the launch of their new collection ‘The look of Love’ we deep dive into the story of founders - and Highschool sweethearts - Inneke and Maarten, so we get to know all the angles of their jewelry brand Simple comme Bonjour.
Hi Inneke and Maarten! Can you tell us a bit more about who you are. What exactly is your background and education?
Inneke: Hello! We are Maarten and Inneke, high school sweethearts, so it is almost time for our 20 years anniversary. From an early age, I’ve known that I wanted to become a goldsmith. What began with selling shell necklaces on the dike, very soon became a passion, a way of life. Since then, we have moved from the smallest premises in town to a cosy shop in Mechelen. Until a few years ago, Maarten was working at Belfius for campaigns such as Red Nose Day, the Paralympics, ... and he was very active in the event sector. When Simple comme Bonjour became too big to handle all by myself, he took the plunge. With his economic insight and his passion for business, Maarten always makes sure our ship sails the right course.
How did you finally make the move to Simple comme Bonjour?
Inneke: The initial idea of Simple comme Bonjour dates back to almost 20 years ago, although there has been quite an evolution in my work and an interesting story about the brand’s name to accompany it. It all started with selling shell necklaces in Nieuwpoort, a bit later it evolved into jewelry with glass beads followed by silver and brass which was the last step to create our current beautiful gold jewelry. Back in the days, I used to pass the smallest store in the city of Mechelen every single day and when the store building came up for rent, I knew it had to be a sign. When the owner gave us the GO to rent the building, we were in Paris. While Maarten was chatting with the bartender, I was on the phone with the landlord to close the deal. After my call, I overheard Maarten's chat and him mentioning the phrase "Simple comme Bonjour". And the rest is history: Simple comme Bonjour was born.
It’s incredibly inspiring how you are releasing a bridal collection as a business couple. How is the collaboration between the two of you going? Has it always been smooth sailing?
Maarten: The first few months that we worked together were terrible. Inneke had to let go of her one-man business and I went from working in a large company to a small independent family enterprise. It's an understatement to say that it was quite a journey to set sail for the right direction and a good way to work together. Just like in a love affair, our working relationship was not always a bed of roses. Under the motto 'good things take time', we went from a rudderless ship to a calm sailboat. Slowly and steadily, and with the desired direction in mind. We are often asked if we don't get bored of each other, but luckily we’re not. We have known each other since the first year of secondary school so we have been around the block quite a few times. We both really work in our own domain and it's not like we only talk about Simple comme Bonjour. Our 2-year-old daughter, Coco, personally makes sure that she is the centre of attention at home.
Can you tell us a little more about the collection 'The look of Love'? Do you sometimes give clients some relationship advice during the personal process of developing a piece of jewelry?
Maarten: Initially, Simple comme Bonjour didn’t design any wedding rings at all. We’ve only started doing this by popular demand of our own customers. We have a close connection with our clients and strive to build a long lasting relationship. Because we have been closely involved in a number of milestones in their lives already, we are often asked to design their wedding rings too.
Inneke: With ’The look of Love' we want to offer a collection with just that little extra. A collection that consists of elements that the happy couples can adjust themselves, but always starting from a quality design with our lifetime warranty. The designs are made of 14k gold, and from rocks with a high hardness so that each piece can always be worn carefree.
There is a nod to couples who like matching rings without having an exact copy of each other. After all, people are not each other’s copies. The richness is in the fact that everyone is different and can therefore bring out the best in one another. And that is exactly what we want to emphasize with the name 'The look of Love': you don't see two identical rings, but a couple that belongs together despite and because of their differences. When a couple comes to our studio, we listen to them and reflect their harmonious differences in their rings. How people act towards each other and how they help each other choose - or just very consciously choosing themselves - reveals a lot and gives us the opportunity to reflect this in their design.
And what about sustainability? Simple comme Bonjour uses recycled gold for the bridal collection. What exactly is that, and are there other sustainable aspects within Simple comme Bonjour?
Maarten: Simple comme Bonjour is a sustainable studio, so sustainability comes back in all aspects of our work. Whether it's the apron we wear or the packaging we choose… Sustainability is the first thing we look at. For our designs, we find it the most normal thing in the world to opt for a sustainable way of working and a conscious choice of materials. In the workshop we avoid acids and chemicals, for the rings we choose recycled or fair mined gold, we look for stones with a transparent origin and we consciously choose quality that lasts a lifetime. Of course this also has consequences, we only work in 14k gold meaning our choice of stones is more limited, ... But these are sacrifices we gladly make to deliver a pair that can be worn carefree and lasts a lifetime.
Starting a sustainable and future-oriented business is not always easy. Do you have any good tips for the next generation of entrepreneurs?
Inneke: When I received my education, sustainability was an aspect that was completely unaddressed. The love of craft was the focus, but sustainability is just like the love for the material and the wearer. As tips we would definitely say: get to know your suppliers, test, change, look further, improve, ... it's a bumpy road, but success is just around the corner. Surround yourself with people with experience (can also be from other sectors) and you will see that sometimes a lot more can be done by only small adjustments.
As a final question, what is your favourite piece from the new collection?
Inneke: Without a doubt the elegant "You feel like Summer”. It symbolizes my own love for Maarten: sunny yellow gold and a peculiar shape of the stones. It reminds me of the feeling you get after a lovely summer day.