A conversation with Claire Pignot
Heinui is unique brand in many ways. Every piece of clothing stands out and there is no surprise there! We’re obsessed with the vivid colours; striking prints and the feminine yet casual shapes Heinui has to offer. We spoke to the French designer Claire Pignot about the brand’s beginnings, sustainability and more.
What is the story behind Heinui?
I created it in 2013, I had stopped working for a little while after the birth of my first son and was eager to start a new project. Heinui was already taking shape in my mind for a year or so, I was working on designs and patterns in my spare time and reflecting on the concept, but I didn’t have a name for it yet.
The idea was to create a mini collection around the theme of indigo, mainly as a way to update my portfolio, in order to show it at job interviews. But I really liked how it came out and decided to send it to shops and blogs/magazines/websites. I ended up receiving many orders from stores and people from all over the world.
At the same time I was also interviewing for designer positions and I realized that most jobs in the fashion industry were really difficult to combine with motherhood, working long hours, traveling a lot, I just couldn’t picture myself in this environment.
Thanks to the positive response I had received, I decided to take the leap and started working full time on Heinui.
Describe your daily working routine?
Every day is so different; it is one of the reasons why I love my job! There isn’t really a typical day because there are so many different things to take care of, whether it’s design, patternmaking, production, packing, running some errands… On the other hand, there’s just too much to do for one person some days and I wish I could delegate more.
I typically work from 9:30 am to 7pm, but it really depends on what the priority is that day. I usually start the day by communicating with my seamstress and every other day I go to her workshop to bring in/pick up orders and in general to oversee production.
A big part of my day is usually dedicated to production, I still do pretty much all of the cutting myself, usually while I listen to podcasts and music. Every week I would dedicate one or 2 afternoons to packing and shipping.
But some days are also entirely dedicated to designing a new print, a new pattern or a new collection. Not as many as I’d like though, but I try to find a balance between being creative and running a business, and also being present for my family.
I recently moved to a bigger house so I could work from home again, since I am pregnant with my third child, I didn’t want to be away all day. I do work a lot, almost everyday of the week, but I can also allow myself some time off and just spend some time with my children or walk down to the beach if I need too.
How do you source your materials? Do you have a favourite that you prefer working with?
I found pretty much all of my suppliers through fabric fairs such as Première Vision Paris, except maybe a couple of them which I randomly found on the internet. I am obsessed with indigo fabrics so I work with a couple of small, family-owned Japanese mills. I think my favourite fabric is a simple cotton canvas indigo fabric from Japan that has a beautiful blue shade, like a slightly faded “bleu de travail”. I used it for many seasons but always end up bringing it back because it is such a staple.
Would you describe Heinui as a sustainable brand? And what choices did you have to make to achieve this?
I’m a bit wary when it comes to describing one’s label as sustainable. There is a lot of green washing out there, and it makes me cringe when brands throw the word “sustainable” around to self-promote without fully embracing the concept.
I think our manufacturing is pretty clean and ethical: everything is pretty much made-to-order so we don’t overproduce, we work with local workshops only, I’m in charge of cutting and recycle every scrap to give them a second life, we run all our errands with public transportation or bicycle! I often joke that the only exploited people here are my husband and myself.
Our suppliers are small factories; many of them still use artisanal techniques for dyeing and weaving and are not mass producers. Being based in Japan and Europe, they also face stricter controls regarding their ethics, work conditions and environmental impact.
I’m also conscious of the fact that we are constantly pouring new products into an already saturated market, so my main goal this year is to rethink our sourcing and production to make Heinui a more sustainable brand. It’s a work in progress!
Why is showing your work at the Bazaar important?
It is so gratifying to be a part of a creative community like the Bazaar, and it is very encouraging and validating to meet your customers. I mainly sell online so I’m always a little “mind-blown” when I see someone wearing one of my dresses or jumpsuits!
What’s next for Heinui?
Many changes are coming! I am still working on them and it’s a long process. But first, a baby in July.