Emilie, what kind of little muse are you?
My name is Emilie, I’m married, 35 and a mum to 2 children. I like family trips, photography, blogging and sewing.
Where do you live?
I live in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. You might think this is like being in prison before you actually see it with your own eyes, but I really have no complaints. It’s nice and warm (which is good but sometimes too much!) right through the year. I live in a little secure community (with a pool, tennis courts and all the benefits) and I enjoy swimming in the Red Sea at the weekends.
How did you come to be in Saudi Arabia?
I followed my husband but it was also a real choice I made, that allowed me to leave my job and devote myself to developing my startup. We used to live in Singapore where life is really expensive. So, I couldn’t afford not to work and didn’t have the time to devote myself to my projects.
Had you already lived abroad before?
Yes, I lived in Singapore for 10 years just before becoming an expat in Arabia. I was also lucky enough to spend a year living in Japan once I’d got my baccalaureate under my belt and before starting my university studies.
How long have you been living in Jeddah?
We’ve been living here for 2 ½ years now. I’ve two boys aged 6 and 9. It took me about 6 months to adjust but the boys needed a little more time to really settle in.
You’ve embarked on a project: Where did you get the idea from? Why did you choose a theme like this?
I started sewing during my final year in Singapore. Also, I had more time on my hands when arriving in Arabia, so I started to make things. Then, encouraged by my girlfriends, I started selling my work and organising sewing workshops. I mainly sell accessories (kits, bags) and try to make them look a little ethnic without appearing too corny.
Tell us how you organise your activities around your personal life?
The children go to school from 8.00am to 1.30pm every day so I work when they’re at school. In the afternoon, I look after them and sometimes start work again once they’re in bed. At busy times (Christmas), I sometimes work in the afternoon too. My children are now grown up enough to understand and are pretty cool about it all.
So you’re a very busy “Mompreneur”?
Yes, the days fly by. I have a rota with the other mums for collecting the children from school and benefit from an extra hour here and there, but having 5.5 hours of free time every day is really not enough for me when I have one new idea every day
Tell us about a sudden inspirational moment of happiness?
Last November, I was invited to show off my work at a university in northern Jeddah. I was thrilled that I’d been spotted on my Facebook page and that my work had been liked. Thanks to this market and two others I took part in during the same month, I sold nearly all my stock and my order book was full in January and February. When you really throw yourself into something,.. it’s super rewarding to make a good profit.
You spend a lot of time looking after your children Can you share one of your home-made tips with us?
All three of us like to sew but something we share and love involves two sheets of paper and some magazines. We cut paper strips from children’s magazines and paste them together, one after the other, without leaving any empty spaces. Then, we fold the remaining paper into 4 and cut pieces to make a kind of doily. We glue this to the bottom of the paper with the strips stuck on and create a drawing.
In addition to being a “Mompreneur”, what sort of cultural things do you enjoy right now on your own or with your family?
Cultural outings and Arabia don’t really mix but this is starting to change… There’s an exhibition on now and then but nothing too exciting.
Time for a bit of culture: Can you quote one of your favourite books or paintings?
I really like the book “Positive Discipline” by Jane Nelsen More info here
Can you recommend a current cultural event in your city or area?
Yes, there’s a modern art exhibition on until 7 th May at Gallery 21-39, which brings together more than 30 Saudi and international 30 artists.info here
Can you summarise the way of life in the country where you now live as an expat?
Saudis are pretty caring and love to go to the park with their families for picnics. Dates, coffee, shisha – it’s a cool lifestyle and they don’t really worry about
tomorrow. “God willing”sometimes means “we may not be here tomorrow so we’ll see” or it can even mean “no”
Emilie, can you tell me about your project?
I started Pluie de Rêves at the end of 2016. I create and sew accessories: little cases, bags, evening bags. My products are very special because I integrate local culture into the design (dromedary, Arabic calligraphy), which is also clean, simple and has a French theme.
Most of my clients are expats looking for gifts. I also personalise my products by adding people’s names, for example. At the end of 2017, I created a custom
passport holder with the person’s surname and a matching cabin bag. I’m currently working on getting my items made in France under the brand name Nils
& Emi. I aim to launch some pre-sale samples in April. I also give live sewing classes and have just started online sewing classes too.
How did you develop your project?
I like having several projects on the go at once. I’m fully SAS registered for the Nils & Emi project so I can work with suppliers and garment production workshops in France. This requires a good business structure.
With online start-up status and online banking – basically, an expat can now access almost everything without stepping outside their door. Every time I go to France, I fill suitcases with materials because I can’t get everything I need in Arabia (or I don’t know where to find it!). I use these for my creations or for my students in my sewing classes. Sometimes, I find what I need in the local markets, but not always! Often, you can find one or two suitable products, but no more. Shopping in Arabia can quickly become a frustrating experience! After only 1 ½ years in business, I’m happy with my progress on Pluie de Rêves. I don’t have a business premises but do have my own workshop at home.
What do you gain from your experience on a professional level in terms of settling into the country and also on a family level…?
My business allows me to meet expats from all over the world, which is really nice. I regret not being able to spend more time with Saudi women. It isn’t easy to find the same opportunities to meet up as it is in other countries.
On the personal level, I’ve got a good balance. I can’t bear to simply be the “accompanying partner”. I need real challenges to flourish … and I set these for
myself every day! When I’m really busy, work can encroach on my personal life and this is my only regret. However, as my husband works a lot, I can’t really challenge him either.
Can you summarise your professional journey?
After my baccalaureate, I went off on an exchange year in Japan before joining Paris 3 where I did a master’s degree in applied foreign languages (English and,Japanese). Then, I completed a master’s in marketing and communication at the business school. I went to work on fundraising and alumni relations for INSEAD, dividing my time between Fontainebleau and Singapore. I fell in love with Lyon and spent 10 years there, still working in philanthropy. Finally, I went from philanthropy to sewing in one fell swoop.