30.06.2017

Be Free Be Sxm: more than just a brand - a state of mind

EMILIE AND LAURINE HAVE CREATED A CLOTHING BRAND TO SHARE THEIR THIRST FOR FREEDOM AND THEIR EXPERIENCE ON THE ISLAND.

Emilie Puit, 30, and Laurine Brunot, 29, first met in 2014 in Saint-Martin, an island they both fell in love with. After working in sales and catering, where they were both bored, they decided to set up a project together. “We wanted to share our experience and introduce people to the island’s state of mind,” they recall. And so the brand Be Free Be Sxm was born, launching first with prêt-à-porter clothing (t-shirts, baseball caps, etc.) and accessories (mugs, travel bags, etc.).

Together they created their first logo, which represents a map of the island enclosed in a pineapple. “It’s a totem fruit, the symbol of hospitality,” explains Emilie, who everyone here knows as Liloo. After a “huge brainstorming session” with their friends, who approved the brand name and logo, the finishing touches were made by a graphic designer from the island and it was printed by the Howell Center silkscreen printer. Apart from for importing blank accessories and clothing, “we only work with people from the island,” they explain.

Using their personal savings, they put together a small stock and began selling their products in markets, most notably at the Grand Case market on Tuesdays. “In the beginning, it was our friends who were most interested. The baseball caps did really well because, even though it’s a really popular accessory here for sun protection, no-one had really focused on the style side in Saint-Martin,” they explain.

With their brand proving to be a hit, they then opened a shop in October 2016, at the Blue Martini (Grand Case). And they are extremely proud to have made everything inside the store themselves, from the shelving units to the dressing rooms, using reclaimed wood and lots of elbow grease. Word-of-mouth seems to be working well and their clientele is made up of both tourists and locals. “People seem to really connect with the logo and the brand message and back story.”

More than just a brand, Be Free Be Sxm is, above all, a way of life. "I've done a lot of traveling and for me, Saint-Martin is one of the last places in the world you can be free. There are fewer restrictions here, less of a routine, and above all more possibilities for entrepreneurship." "Abroad," Emilie explains, "you need visas and on the mainland, you need more money and resources." For Laurine, a young mother with a management degree, freedom also means being able to choose to make only unique models every day if she chooses and being able to work flexible hours if they have admin work they need to catch up on. It also means having time to meet people. "We've set up a little table and chairs in front of the shop and get lots of people passing by. People come into the shop just to "chill" with us.

In addition to developing their organic range (they already sell organic cotton dresses and t-shirts), they plan on developing their website so that their customers can also shop online, and maybe even to open another shop, ideally on the Dutch side of the island. And, in the long term, to export the brand to other locations in the world. “Our aim is to travel with our message of freedom more or less everywhere, adapting it for each country. We’ve already had orders from Montreal but we haven’t taken that step yet.” Emilie adds: “at the beginning it was difficult. I was working a second job from 6 am to 10 am and 6 pm to midnight. But it’s been the greatest experience of my life. We’re both fashionistas (I’ve always dreamed of becoming a stylist) and we wanted to meet people.” Like many of their generation Y peers, Laurine wants to “make the most of life” and break down as many unnecessary constraints, such as strict working hours, without compromising on professionalism. “If you’re forcing yourself, you’re not open to new ideas. We do the creative work at home, choosing the colors and new logos, etc. together. That all takes time but I don’t feel like I’m at work when we’re doing that.“

Fanny Fontan

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