Interview: Virginie François

Interview with Virginie Francois, Little Observationist

Meet Virginie, one of the most stylish women I know, who has worked hard to turn her passion into a successful business (in another country, no less!). Originally from France, she has set up her shop Mushi Mushi in the heart of Barcelona where she sells beautiful women’s clothing and accessories. Recently, she’s collaborated with a local artist to create a line of t-shirts and another project is in the works now with an artist based in Madrid. Below, Virginie shares the story of Mushi Mushi, some of the challenges she’s faced as an entrepreneur and a bit about Barcelona itself. 

Interview with Virginie Francois, Little Observationist

LO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
VF: I am French, Breton specifically. I have always lived close to the sea which explains why I chose Barcelona to start my business. This is a very cosmopolitan and vibrant city, packed with artists.

LO: You run Mushi Mushi in Barcelona full-time. Share the story of the shop’s beginnings.
VF: It was a huge adventure when I arrived in Spain. I didn’t know anyone! I moved into a flat in Gracia and I started looking for a job right away. Slowly but surely, the idea of starting my own women’s clothing shop became clearer to me. After a few years of very tough recession, I decided to move the shop to a new spot and freshen up the image. I finally managed to have my Parisian boutique in Gracia.

Interview with Virginie Francois, Little Observationist

LO: What can we expect from a visit to Mushi Mushi? What’s the atmosphere like and who are some of the designers you love to feature? 
VF: Mushi Mushi is a very feminine shop which offers easy to wear collections without compromising its French ‘chic’ allure. Most of the brands I sell are French, and each one offers high quality and elegance like “des petits hauts” – amazing cotton t-shirts, unique prints from “Diega” or “Sessùn”.

I have always aimed to work with local artists, so all the jewellery is handmade in Barcelona. This summer I have included a new Brand from Madrid – hand-painted plates by Nuria Blanco. They will be available very soon.

Interview with Virginie Francois, Little Observationist

LO: What are the biggest challenges and rewards of being an entrepreneur? Any advice for others who would like to do the same?
VF: When I decided to open the shop, it was very clear that I had to sell something I really loved and was passionate about, something that would resemble myself and my personality. That way selling the products would be a natural and easy thing to do.

It was not easy building up a regular clientele. It took lots of patience, hard work and attention to detail. My motto has always been to advise customers without overwhelming them.

I think the key for every brick-and-mortar business that you think of starting is location. My previous shop was in a lovely square, but sales where not doing so well. So I moved to a busier street and a higher profile public who were more the target audience for my clothing range. Everything changed for the better!

In two years, five more fashion shops have opened nearby but instead of competing they have brought a wider audience. The street is now a nicer shopping area.

Interview with Virginie Francois, Little Observationist

LO: Describe your latest collaboration with artist Aina Martinez Snape. Where did the idea come from? What was the design process like?
VF: I met Aina a few years back because she was a client from Mushi Mushi. We shared the same love for beautiful clothes and very special fabrics.

She is a graphic designer. One day, I suggested we started a collaboration to create a range of t-shirts. There are lots of printed t-shirts around, but nothing quite like this collection.

For this very first collection, I wanted to focus on Japan because Mushi Mushi is a Japanese name. From that point, everything ran smoothly. Now that I see the outcome I couldn’t be prouder. The result reflects perfectly the Mushi Mushi style and you can see Aina’s influence on it.

Interview with Virginie Francois, Little Observationist

LO: Have you done other collaborations with artists in the past? Is there anyone in particular you’d love to work with in the future?
VF: This is the very first time I do a collaboration like this, but I can tell you that it will not be the last. I am currently working with a Catalan photographer, but everything is still a secret.

LO: What’s the area like around your shop?
VF: I moved to Bonavista Street in 2013 and in a few years time the whole street has changed enormously.

There are a few very stylish shops like Boo (men and women) or Rock 01 Baby (very trendy kids). Very close by, in San Francisco Giner Street, there is a very cute interior design shop where I could buy something every time I walk in.

Every morning, I stop for coffee at Onna Café, right by Mushi Mushi. True Costa Rican coffee, delicious.

Interview with Virginie Francois, Little Observationist

LO: Share five songs that you’d add to your Barcelona playlist that encompass the vibe of the city.
Nina Simone – “Love me or leave me”
Jungle – “Busy Earnin;”
Caribou – “Sun”
M83 – “Midnight City”
Isaac Delusion – “Early morning”

LO: When you’re not working, how do you enjoy your time in Barcelona? Any hidden gems we should be sure not to miss?
VF: Every morning before I open the shop, I go to the gym with a friend and we follow up with coffee in any of the local squares.

On Sundays, I love joining friends to have a vermout, a very typical aparitiv before lunch, but it is dangerous if you don’t soak it with some tapas!

Interview with Virginie Francois, Little Observationist

LO: Little Observationist is all about appreciating life’s little luxuries. Share three of the little things you’ve enjoyed recently.

  1. La Planète Mode(The Fashion World) by Jean paul Gaultier. I love it! There is an exhibition at Grand Palais de Paris until the end of August that I don’t want to miss.
  2. A very special soap by Granado (Brazilian cosmetics) which has a beautiful smell and comes in a very nice retro packaging (sabonete Um Sonho). In Barcelona you can only find them in The Avant (a shop in Enric Granados Street).
  3. A glass of wine after work, skyping with my mum or spending time with my friends.

Thanks Virginie!

Check out Mushi Mushi’s website, follow along on Facebook or, if you happen to be in Barcelona, pop in and say hello: Carrer de Bonavista 12, 08012 Barcelona.

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