Coucou is an idea that grew in Marie Berlier’s head in 2015. How do you shop better, more sustainably and guilt-free? Her dream became a reality when she began to rent out second-hand evening dresses in her cellar in Saint-Gilles which she used as her showroom. In 2017, things really kicked off when the company was established and when Isabelle d’Otreppe joined the project. “In 2018 the cellar became too small, so we moved to a bigger showroom on Place du Châtelain, with a proper retail space and eight fitting rooms,” explains Isabelle.
Today, Coucou is still run by Marie and Isabelle, but the small Brussels company’s team continued to grow and now counts six employees as well as students and interns. The staff is made up of two ‘style gurus’, an E-shop & Digital Marketing Manager, a Communication & Community Manager, a Quality Control Manager and a Coordinator. Together they manage a 120 m2 of clothes and stylish accessories. Most of the clothes have already had a first owner, but after a bit of care from Coucou, they find many other owners who can shine in a unique item at their festivities.
“The idea grew out of the realization that the clothing industry has a big ecological footprint, both in terms of water consumption and CO2 emissions. While you can find clothing that fits certain sustainability criteria, we wanted to offer an alternative that is sustainable and affordable, especially for party dresses which are often only worn once. Our success shows that we are not the only ones thinking that way,” says Isabelle.
In addition to clothing rental, Coucou also started selling jewelry, accessories and cosmetics from small, often local designers. “These new products helped us limit the damage during the long months of lockdown,” explains Isabelle. “Given that our dresses are mainly rented for events, the demand dried up during lockdown. Fortunately, by selling clearance clothes, accessories, and cosmetic products through our e-shop, we managed to keep above water. By launching campaigns and activities on social media, we continued to engage with our community and stay top of mind.” On Facebook alone, Coucou now has nearly 18,000 followers. The business is also active on Instagram and via Google My Business.
“Our next big challenge is to launch a digital platform for renting out our clothes. It’s more complex than a conventional e-shop, but we’re confident that we can get it up and running soon,” explains Isabelle.
Strong digital tools are essential in Coucou’s business model. The business has a full-time Community Manager and a person in charge of the E-shop and Digital Marketing. “For a small business with eight staff members, all of this means a lot of work,” says Isabelle.
“So, after the GDPR, I’m not too pleased about the announcement of new rules and the risk of having to redouble our efforts to stay present on the channels that we manage today”, she explains.