Jules Kirby is not just your average jet-setting international socialite. Rather than dazzling the benefit circle, Jules is more likely to be found on the beach surfing or diving in exotic destinations ranging from Thailand to St. Barths. This spring she added to her list of accolades and opened a boutique, Jolika, in Belle-ile-en-Mer, France - an island off the coast of Normandy where she's called home since March 2007. I recently connected with Jules in France via Skype to get the dish on Jolika, her move back to NYC, and how France has been treating her.
What was your inspiration for opening Jolika?
I love to shop. I love nature. It keeps me very busy, and out of trouble.
How would you describe your personal sense of style? How has that influenced your store?
I live on islands year round. Belle Ile St Barths Koh Tao. I rarely wear black or pants. The most dressed that youd probably see mein is my wetsuit with my Patagonia Green board. I'm just as comfortable in a pair of Simple sneakers as I am in loubutin platforms, or my Hunter rainboots. I love things short: skirt, dress, & shorts. I probably have a thousand bikini bottoms, not including from my own collection. I dress my simple clothes with lots of accessories. I have a serious addiction to big faced watches, gold, and am heavy on the rocks.
Why did you choose to open it on Belle-Ile-en-Mer, France?
Belle Ile is partly a nature reserve, not overcrowded, and therefore beautiful. It is the only place where I live for a real period of time during the year. It has some dangerous surf, I can dive, parachute all in one day, and at the end of it all watch the sun set with a fantastic bottle of wine and eat the best seafood. I love life here, I strongly believe one can live longer if they spend time on the island. I am less surprised this year with how many Americans jet over hear because it is the definition of relaxed.
Discuss the environmental objectives of Jolika and the products you carry.
The objective environmentally of JoliKa is to just make people more aware of their surroundings. It feels good to buy and at the same time give. My store is about as environmentally friendly as it can get. The work done on the store was done at night til 5am, at night hours less electricity is needed to generate. We used battery powered everything, and ecological paint. My bags are 100 % biodegradable and on each bag it is written that your purchase has donated 1€ to Belle Ile's Maison De La Nature. I am the sole sponsor sadly in France for the CPIE, which the above is a small part of. I discuss all of this with my clients and have trained the girls who sell to be able to educate as well.
What type of brands do you carry and why?
I only carry ethical lines of clothes, shoes, bags and accessories. One of my own lines is literally recycled. What was a man's shirt is now a miniskirt. What was a sweater is now 5 scarves. It's cheap and surprisingly cute. Many of the accessories are from local artists and I exhibit art from locals as well. I've just bought a fantastic drawing series from Gerald Musch.
How does Jolika represent you and your outlook on life?
JoliKa is a boutique where I am trying to just do my little bit. I am highly influenced by my travels and relationships with locals in very very poor places and could never knowingly be unethical. I have given my heart to the battle for environmental protection and humanity, i am always ashamed when I find out I've made an error. JoliKa is really my cerveaux on beauty and awareness.
What are your upcoming plans?
I'm focusing on finishing up this first season, possibly expand for men in 2009. Keep busy, keep being informed, surf, jump out of planes, more diving, sunshine, and work....lots of work.
Do you plan on expanding and opening boutiques in other locations?
I have plans to open more boutiques. Maybe more than I planned. Every boutique willhave the same objectives but different designers such as Edun, Bono's wife's line and a different partnership each forthe local organization. Next stop St Barths. It needs it bad. The lack of sensitvity by the tourists is literally devastating, but those facts on how much the island has been destroyed as well as the diminishing marine life that was thriving just 10 years ago is a subject I can go on for hours, and I am not so sure this article is to push people into severe depression and self loathing ; ) I believe that nature is much more powerful than a yacht
Rumor has it that you're heading back to NYC this fall. Is it true?
Yes, it is. I'm planning a trip in October. I'll stay for a few weeks, perhaps a month. I'm not known to be good with making a stringent itinerary!
I'd describe Jules' style as a fusion of NYC chic and French island bohemian. I've visited her in both Belle-Ile and St Barths in the past year while she was searching for inspiration and ideas for Jolika. She inspired me to become more aware of my surroundings and a proponent of sustainability as well as helping me style my island gear.
Jules is already making a mark in France for her distinctive taste in style and her passion for the environment. As the sole sponsor of the Centres Permanents d'Initiatives pour L'Environnment (Centers for Permanent Environmental Initiatives), she's combining her flair for fashion and entrepreneurial prowess to spread awareness.
We LOVE Jules and can't wait for her to bring Jolika to NYC!