My Business Journey: Marie-Chantal, Crown Princess of Greece
Let's start at the beginning – where did your entrepreneurial spirit come from?
“My father was a huge inspiration to me and remains a great role model to this day. He built an amazing career, co-founding Duty Free Shopping – the first luxury travel retail company. Despite being a busy businessman travelling the world, he was also a wonderful family man. Raising my five children while also being a wife and having a career is something I always wanted to emulate and achieve. When I was a teenager, I interned in the marketing department at Duty Free and just loved seeing not only how a good product was key to success, but also how telling the story through imagery and presentation made it so much more. Retail was always in my blood.”
What made you want to start your own business?
“I was born in London but spent my early years in Hong Kong, which was a magical time for me and my two sisters. Later, we went to boarding school in Europe. I’ve always been creative, and it was my passion for art and design which led me to study at the New York Academy of Arts and New York University. In my late 20s, I decided to start a children’s brand – I was a young mother raising my own children and just fell in love with that category.”
What was your family's reaction at the time?
“My father was apprehensive, always telling me how difficult retail was. Retail is detail and creating a product from start to finish takes a lot of work or I like to say it takes a lot of love, sweat and tears. My children today love what I’ve created and couldn’t be prouder of me. For me, success is seeing how creative and entrepreneurial my grown-up children have become. I’m hoping I instilled a dual family and work ethic in them, just like my father did in me.”
Do you think you could have ever worked for anyone else but yourself?
“I’m a Virgo and love things done my way. I had and still do have a very defined vision for the brand and always wanted to be my own boss. There are times, however, when I think I could have been a good creative director for different brands I’ve come to love over the years.”
What was it about children's clothing that interested you?
“I wanted to go into the cosmetic business but changed my mind after my third child was born. Everything about babies is just so lovely. Their little clothes, the bath products… It’s such a special time. My son had a full head of silvery hair when he was born and looked like a little cherub, so shortly after, our little Angel Wing onesie was born. It has remained an all-time favourite of mine and a brand bestseller.”
What gap in the market were you trying to fill?
“Well, I was a young mother with small children and had a point of view. There weren’t that many brands with a creative face behind the brand at that time. I wanted to create a brand that had it all – pretty dresses, tops and outfits. Today, the brand is mainly about gift giving. Giving to a newborn, an expectant mother or father, the family and yourself. We’ve really become a family brand.”
How have you juggled motherhood and entrepreneurship over the years?
“When I started the brand, the children were little and it wasn’t always that easy. But I think I’ve always been a good delegator with good ideas. I couldn’t have made this business without the support of a great team. For any women hoping to do the same, or just wanting advice about juggling the two, I would say do as much as you can without sacrificing quality time away from your growing children. That’s the most important priority.”
What have been some of the highlights from your career to date?
“I’ve loved seeing how many Angel Wing onesies we have sold over the years and how that category has really become a staple of the Marie-Chantal brand and how much bigger the Angel Wing collection has become. What also makes me really proud is the collaborations we’ve been working on. Schumacher fabrics is a beautiful extension of the brand – especially if you think of children and young adults’ bedrooms – and we have a few more that we will be launching over the next few months.”
How would you describe yourself as a boss?
“I think I’m creative and a good delegator, but I also rely heavily on my wonderful team to get things done. Creating talent in a business is also a skill and I’m proud to say I now have a great team.”
What do you think running your own business has taught you?
“To always focus on the vision of the brand. To keep the vision alive and to never lose sight of what you set out to do.”
Anything you might have done differently in hindsight or roads not taken?
“The only thing that comes to mind is perhaps starting the business later when the children were older and I had time to focus. But, then again, I’m very critical of myself and always think I should have and could have done better. At the end of the day, I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world.”
What made you want to publish a book in 2019?
“I’ve always been a big believer that sitting at the table, whether it be at breakfast, lunch or dinner is the best way to bond and, when they are a bit bigger, to get to know your children. Some of my fondest early memories are sitting at the dining table with my parents and siblings. The family table is a place where children develop not only healthy eating habits but also good manners and conversational skills. Carving out a few minutes each morning to have breakfast with your family creates a structure that is both nurturing and stabilising.
“The book covers not only dining habits but so much more. It has been proven that children with good manners do better in the world. Manners don’t cost anything, and it isn’t a socio-economic privilege either. I have seen very fortunate children with the absolute worst manners, to others who have very little at all but have the very best manners. Who would you choose out of the two if they were applying to a school or a job?”
So, what's next for the company – what are you looking forward to?
“I’m so excited to announce the launch of Angel, our first signature scented candle, which will be available soon. The power of fragrance is so evocative; there are scents that bring back the most special moments, from my own childhood and wedding bouquet to precious memories of my children when they were babies. There will always be a candle burning in the house. I love its mood boosting abilities, so creating a signature scented candle has always been something I wanted to add to our lifestyle offering. Whether it be for a moment of grown-up calm once the children have gone to bed, the perfect gift, or simply to fill a room with its delicate floral fragrance, I hope everyone loves it as much as I do.
“We also introduced our Match your Mini collection last year – something for the mamas and papas – which is proving to be very popular, and I look forward to adding to that. I have the cutest picture of my father wearing his MC blue cowboy pyjamas which he absolutely adores! We’ve also expanded our grown-up offering with the latest arrival of our Angel Wing cashmere robe and our debut silk edit: the most gorgeous set of silk polka dot pyjamas in ivory and pink (the campaign features my daughter Olympia and Isabella Massenet). Made from the softest cashmere and the finest Italian silk, they are a lovely treat to yourself or the perfect present for someone you love.”
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