French Dressing

A chat with Dominique Simonneaux, owner of Les Petits Chapelais in New York City.

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Les-Petits-Chapelais-4“I came to the U.S. from France on an exchange program as a modern dancer,” Dominique Simonneaux muses. Now the owner of Les Petits Chapelais in New York City (named after a hamlet in her native Brittany), she shifted from dancing to crafting baby clothes with her fashion designer sister when she was expecting her first child. She began showing her creations to boutiques in the city, and when an owner revealed that his shop was relocating, Simonneaux sublet the space in 2001. Nestled in Manhattan’s Soho shopping district, the boutique’s shabby-chic décor—with tin ceilings and exposed bricks—provides the perfect setting for its stylish array of apparel for children ages newborn to 12 years. Simonneaux favors European brands and lesser-known designers, and after nearly 15 years, her eclectic approach continues to appeal. But it’s about more than just selling clothes for the savvy shop owner: It’s about trusting her gut (rather than following trends) and creating a place where families can gather. As she puts it, “My grandfather used to say that he would pay more for baguette at a bakery where he felt a connection, and I always remember that.” 

A winter essential for both boys and girls is the AI Riders on the Storm jacket. “This is a big bestseller because it zips all the way up the face and has built-in goggles. You can still speak and hear too.” (ai-storm.com)

For cozy (and pretty) toes, she suggests socks from April Showers by Polder. “These are from France. I saw them at Playtime in Paris and thought they were beautiful.” (polder.fr)

When customers want a très-chic tote, Simonneaux recommends Easy Peasy bags. “Its an eco-friendly French company. The bags have fun phrases like Bonjour and Bisou that express personality. We do really well with them.” (easypeasy.fr)

Chispum wall stickers are a go-to gift item. “The owner asks different graphic designers from all over the world to create the designs, and you can put them everywhere—on the floor, on the wall, on the chair.” (chispum.com)

“I like how Go Gently Baby clothes are cut a little looser and wider. I’m a dancer so I understand that kids love to move freely in clothes. The line is all organic cotton, too. We have a huge range of collections that are organic cotton and fair trade.” (shop.gogentlybaby.com)

“We never have enough Hello Shiso hair clips. They’re fun and cute; I constantly have to refill the case after selling them.” (helloshiso.com)

Parents flock to Oli & Carol ducks for baby’s bath time. “These are from Spain and they are all-natural latex. It’s a classic toy that everyone knows, but these are made with natural materials.” (oliandcarol.net)

“Quality and craft are very important. I love Sonatina from Italy. They make beautiful bracelets and headbands.” (sonatina world.com)

Petit Nord hats help little ones stay warm during New York’s blustery months. “These are great for winter. They come in many colors, and I sell them to adults too.” (petitnord.com)

Another top-selling accessory? Pop Cutie necklaces. “It’s such a popular line—everyone wants these. The food shapes are so fun.” (popcutie.myshopify.com)

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