Florence Chataignier Mars, the VP of Bonpoint on her latest parenting book and raising children Stateside
Co-written by Florence Chataignier Mars and Pauline Leveque – who also provided the illustrations – ‘Say Bonjour to the Lady’ pokes fun at the austere French parenting methods, compared to that of the self-confident American style. As well as making a playful gift for a new mother, we love that 25% of the royalties from the book will go towards the Epic Foundation, which is a NY-based charity raising funds for non-profits helping children around the world. We chat to Florence about the book, plus life with her family in the US.
AS THE VP OF BONPOINT, WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
The good news is there is no typical day! I have to travel quite a bit in America to visit our eight stores and meet partners, bloggers, potential locations, our lovely local teams and to recruit. At least twice a year I also spend a week in Paris at the Head Office, so being at the office in NY is not my routine… I have been working for Bonpoint for three years now, it is not only a beautiful brand but a company with a nice family spirit. My absolute favorite thing is to organise events for children with my team. We have worked with Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center on their bunny hop event, launched an amazing French Halloween party in the garden of Laduree every year, as well as a partnership with MoMA and with the NY City Ballet. Every day is different!
WHAT ARE YOUR GO-TO BRANDS FOR STYLING YOURSELF AND YOUR LITTLE ONES?
Well, for my children, it is hard to not go crazy with Bonpoint. It has always been my favorite brand, even before I joined the company – I have always been obsessed. Of course, as every Parisian mother does, I also go to Monoprix every time I go back to France! For me it is very simple: I spend my life in black pants and shirts. Whenever I need to be a little dressed up, I always go to my friend Sophie Theallet, who is the absolute best at glorifying the female body. She is a magician, every time I wear her dresses I feel like a rock star.
DID YOUR STYLE CHANGE DURING PREGNANCY?
I don’t think so. I have been pregnant at 25, 28 and 33 years old and I tried very hard to not change my style too much. Here in NY I have not been pregnant (yet!) but I would go to Hatch for sure, I love the easy, effortlessly chic style of the brand.
CONGRATULATIONS ON ‘SAY BONJOUR TO THE LADY’ – WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM IT?
Merci beaucoup! The book is a funny comparison of both parenting styles: Paris and NY. With a lot of illustrations! We made fun of both the super-strict French mother and the uber cool American, exaggerating a bit of course their differences… The truth is the best education style is right in the middle with a little bit of the French rules and a lot of the American enthusiasm!
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE MAIN PARENTING STYLE DIFFERENCE IS?
The main difference is that French mothers try to make sure their children are “bien élevés” [well behaved] while American mothers want their kids to be comfortable and happy. I am not saying that we don’t care about their happiness but that this comes after the respectful and well-behaved part.
AS A MOTHER RAISING A YOUNG FAMILY, WHAT DO YOU TAKE FROM THE US CULTURE, AND WHAT DO YOU KEEP FROM THE FRENCH?
The art de la table is the one thing that I will never give up. It is very important to us to have dinner the five of us every evening, no screen, no fooling around, sharing the food (that I prepare of course!) and talking about the day, the projects we have. There are a million little rules about ‘la table’ that I will not bore you with right now but I am very much on it! Concerning the US habits that we should get a little inspired by: enthusiasm and building self-confidence. Americans are the best at that. No matter what the child does they systematically hear “You are awesome!”, “Amazing!”, “Well done” or “Great”. We could use a little bit of that instead of our perennial “pas mal” [not bad].
‘Say Bonjour to the Lady’ is out now, available at Bonpoint, Amazon and Barnes and Noble