Elsa Lepeu and Johanna El Iman are the sisters behind Zoobeetle Paris, a French luxury leather goods maker that have boutiques in Paris and Hong Kong—those familiar with Sheung Wan may have stumbled across their boutique on Sai Street.
Zoobeetle’s collections are designed by Elsa, who used to design for Chloé, and developed by Johanna who worked at Lancel among other luxury fashion houses.
For those wondering about the origins of Zoobeetle’s name—it was inspired by an art deco bracelet worn by their mother which was adorned with a scarab, or a beetle and the sisters’ imaginations did the rest.
In our latest edition of the Tatler 10, where we pose 10 questions to Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs about their business, we asked Elsa and Johanna about the challenges of being an entrepreneur and the changing scope of accessory design.
1) What does Hong Kong mean to you?
We believe that Hong Kong is a place where anything is possible—we love Hong Kong because it’s a great energetic city that pushes you to do more with its unique cultural mix.
2) Summarise your business in one sentence.
Zoobeetle Paris is a French luxury leather goods maison that we founded in 2012—we specialise in designing and making exquisite leather goods.
3) What is your proudest accomplishment?
Our proudest accomplishment is definitely the opening of our two retail shops in our two home cities, Paris & Hong Kong! We’re proud of our Hong Kong boutique, it’s located in Sheung Wan and has a Parisian flair with its wine bar, soft ambient music and a diverse range of product—we wanted to offer a different experience as most people in Hong Kong are used to shopping in big malls.
4) What do you love most about running your own business?
Being an entrepreneur means creating something from scratch, taking risks and going above and beyond. It makes you think on a grand scale, day after day. From our perspective, it’s also having the chance to work hand in hand, together with your family to fulfil your dream.
5) What advice can you offer budding entrepreneurs?
I guess the right partner can either tip the scales as to whether or not you can take your idea off the ground. Trust in yourself and listen to what is happening around you. Asking yourself the right questions and listening to something you don’t want to hear is the hardest part of the process sometimes.
6) As an entrepreneur, what do you think sets you and your business apart from the competition?
Zoobeetle Paris offers a wide range of functional yet elegant luxury products, to make your life easier. It’s a tale of a woman that can do everything with her bag: they are light, chic and incredibly convenient. Most people expect their bags to be multifunctional—they want one bag that they can travel with, take to the gym, carry all of your essentials, take out on a night on the town and so forth—and Zoobeetle Paris is proof that that’s possible.
7) Who inspires you and why?
We always find inspiration in our grandmother. She dedicated her life to being an incredible mother, an attentive wife, a fearless businesswoman and she always taught us that if you want something, you have to make it happen for yourself.
8) Looking back, do you wish you had done anything differently?
Everyone is bound to make mistakes but it’s important to remain positive and apply that knowledge going forward.
9) What's your end goal?
We always want to make our client’s life easier by creating products that they can use from day to night and that never go out of style. We’re always striving to improve and we have a couple of projects in development that we can’t wait to share with everyone.
10) What are your words to live by?
We like to live with an open mind so our approach to anything is always: “Why not!”