Behind the Brand
Behind the Brand: Charlie Be Good
Copy: Serena Faber Nelson
Photography: Charlie Be Good
Handmade dog accessories brand, Charlie Be Good, really has it all.
Based in the inspired artisan city of Paris, owner and designer Malgosia Krol-Baty, combs through the Paris textile district looking for fun, modern and quality materials to create her stunning selection of dog beds, carriers, bow ties, collars and leads.
In a world where mass production has many of us looking for that something special, Charlie Be Good stands heads and shoulders above the rest with their dedication to originality and craftsmanship.
Pretty Fluffy joined them for a day in Paris to find out the secrets to their success.
CHARLIE BE GOOD
Name: Malgosia Krol-Baty and Arnaud Baty
Title & Company: Owner & Designer (Malgosia) Photographer & Graphic Designer (Arnaud), Charlie Be Good
Age: 31 (going on 13)
Location: Paris, France
What was your first job? Does it relate to your current career as a pet designer?
Oh my goodness, no. Well, that depends what you call a first job. I would say my first job as far back as I can remember has always been making things and creating and then figuring out how to sell them.
Other than that my very first “real” job was at a movie theater (I wanted to be an actress). And as an adult I studied landscape architecture and worked in the field for a number of years and had a small side business designing gardens. So I suppose creativity would relate all of the above.
Tell us about the evolution of Charlie Be Good. What inspired the brand?
Two life changes inspired Charlie Be Good: we moved from Canada to my husband’s native France and shortly after that Charlie found her way into our home.
So the brand was really born out of my lifelong need to be my own boss, a pair of idle hands in a new country and a desire to spoil our furry family member.
Tell us about the dogs behind the inspiration of Charlie Be Good…
I really credit Charlie for the lightbulb going off, right down to slipping us the idea for our brand’s name; she’s super humble about it all.
Her needs also inspired our collection and how important it was to us to design goods that are equally pleasing to the eye as they are durable; since we wanted Charlie to look great and have the peace-of-mind that she’d be safe and our craftsmanship could handle what dogs do best, live it up!
Despite bringing all kinds of living creatures home throughout my childhood, from amphibians to cats, growing up we didn’t get a dog until I was 17 or so.
Jasper (our family Husky) passed away nearly two years ago of a terrible cancer and at the end of his life, lost a leg. The incredible thing about his story is that he set such an example for us all, even with three legs left standing, he never seemed happier. He had the relentless energy to play ball, despite the fact that he never showed interest in anything ball-related his entire 13 years.
I was lucky enough to witness all of this on a visit home and have him be a really great sport about posing in some of our bow ties. He loved the attention and I cherish those photos and last weeks spent together and am just in constant awe of what we learn from our animal friends.
You are based in possibly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Paris. How does your city inspire your work?
Oh my goodness, living here has just been a free-for-all for inspiration. All I have to do is get lost in Paris (best way to visit this city, by the way!) with a note pad, pencil and my camera in hand and I’m set.
There’s so much to look at here and get ideas. From the architecture, to graphic design in the streets, to how people dress – I’m a kid in a candy shop!
Charlie Be Good is well known for the use of unique and beautiful fabrics. How are they sourced and chosen?
Thank you for the compliment! Since we’ve set up shop here four years ago, I’ve learned a great deal from observation and daring to step outside of my comfort zone in many aspects, especially when designing and buying our textiles.
The best part about it is that Paris has by far one of the best textile districts I have seen to date. So I can take my ideas and make them a reality because there is so much variety available. I do love a good textiles hunt, it’s always an adventure!
A lot of times our collections happen spontaneously too, I’ll go shopping with my wish list and come out with something completely different. Never a dull moment and I’m always on the lookout for local merchants and creating a healthy and personable relationship with them. I very much like doing things “old school” and Paris is a mecca for artisans.
You have an extensive Bow Tie collection for dogs. What goes into their design and construction?
Anything I make must meet my standards of what I consider to be a well crafted item. I’m a Capricorn and we tend to be sticklers for that kind of thing. I’m definitely on the lookout to meet the same criteria when purchasing our textiles and supplies for the shop, as I would shopping for myself. I don’t like to waste my time on materials that won’t last and I’ll obsess about it until things are done right.
As with any of our goods, our bow ties start with high quality textile. They are then reinforced with fusible cotton to give them a structure that will last. It’s a process that I adjusted and perfected over time through trouble-shooting to make a finished product I can be sure of and one I would want to buy.
You’re known for your quality craftsmanship and classic design. How would you describe your sense of style?
I’ve had a life-long love affair with all things simple, texture and pops of color. I tend to navigate towards design that is orderly with clean lines and I love vintage fabrics like tweeds, wools and woven cottons.
I’m also a big fan of the 50’s and 60’s, I feel like they really got design right back then, including the emphasis on solid craftsmanship.
Is Charlie Be Good a pet friendly workplace?
I would say that I have a pet friendly life, I’d be all thumbs otherwise! Paris is an incredible city for that and Charlie is our little sidekick wherever we go, including to work with me when we were set up in a collective studio.
We’ve since moved CBG to our home to cut down on the time I spent in transit and although there are pros and cons to that, overall it’s been a positive change.
What has been the highlight for Charlie Be Good to date?
That’s a tough one to answer because we’ve been really blessed with many highlights like getting published by generous bloggers and dog magazines. Something that came to mind however was when we made a sale to our first return customer.
You’re faced with many challenges when working solo and when people write to us or about us, or give us feedback expressing how happy they are with our goods and spoil us with photos, it just adds fuel to the fire and all of that gives me a huge boost to keep at it.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in running a business and developing a brand?
“Work smarter, not harder”, my Dad said that to me a few years back. And it’s true, time management is everything when you’re running a business and it took me a while to figure out what worked for me and that it looks different for everyone, even if the basics that business owners stick to are more-or-less the same.
A lot can also be said for staying flexible in our own routines and how we manage our time. There’s always room for improvement and that said flexibility is what keeps me on my toes and allows for room to make changes and improvements.
I’m also a bit of a workaholic and I’ve learned a great deal about saying no to myself and others in order to take the time to step away from the business and setting mini-goals as much as big ones. It really helps me to gain perspective and in the end renders me more productive. And if I really need to, taking a good ol’ cat nap does the trick.
What do you look for in a good pet brand or product?
The quality of craftsmanship is really important to me. If something is well made I’ll come back for more and become a loyal customer and I’ll take better care of those items too.
I also buy handmade as often as I can, it’s not just about the item but the whole experience of purchasing something and being a more conscious consumer that is a reward in itself.
How do you see the pet industry evolving in the coming years?
I hope to see it evolve in a more ecological way, as I do for consumerism and manufacturing as a whole. Even though I think the industry has already made leaps and bounds in that area with more and more artisans coming into the picture and consumers looking for things with a responsible label for their pets as much as they do for themselves.
I think about that often and make an effort to change my mindset and relationship to consumption and all that it entails (no pun intended), from how long it takes to produce something to getting to know the brand and people behind it. It’s a huge opportunity to connect with people from all over the globe.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I think any advice can become the best advice you receive, it’s really just a matter of timing and knowing how to use that advice on your terms when the moment presents itself, so it’s difficult for me to pinpoint just the one.
But I do listen to music all day and like advice (and books or people we meet), I think certain songs fall into our lap at the perfect moment and plant a seed that helps us continue in what we’ve set out to do. So my current best advice comes from Marvin Gaye, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, because there really isn’t.
How do you see Charlie Be Good in 10 years time?
Well, I can definitely still imagine seeing CBG in 10 years time so that’s either super positive or I really need those years to accomplish everything I have planned for this little venture.
In the near future we’ll include our own screen printed fabric designs, collective collaborations and employees. We also have a big project we’re cultivating that I can’t disclose the details of, but one that we’re silly excited about and requires a whole other level of expertise to see the light of day.
What are your top picks from the latest Charlie Be Good collection?
My personal favorites from our Spring collection would be the Aztec Bed, our flower prints and our new wool tweeds. I can never say ‘no’ to a good tweed, it’s an impossible task for me…as is now closing my closets where I keep them.
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Copy: Serena Faber Nelson
Photography: Charlie Be Good