Women in Business: Michele Bohbot, CEO, BISOU BISOU

In 1989, as Designer and CEO, Michele Bohbot launched her fresh, contemporary collection under the label BISOU BISOU, French slang meaning, “a little kiss.” Bringing her vision of Parisian street fashion with a modern style to American women, the collection incorporated sportswear, denim and beautiful dresses along with licensees for shoes, outerwear, handbags, and accessories. The collection was met with immediate success.

In its 25 year plus history, BISOU BISOU has become a global fashion leader. For her excellence, Michele has been the recipient of multiple awards. In October 2001, she was recognized as the “Best Contemporary Designer” at the Dallas Fashion Awards. In April of 2002, she was honored as one of “The Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World.” In 2003, Michele signed a licensing agreement with JCPENNEY, giving exclusive distribution rights to this fabulous retail chain.

Bisou Bisou continues to be a bestselling brand at JCPENNEY. Continuing to offer her customer the latest fashions with the highest quality fabrications all at affordable prices. Bisou Bisou has been a favorite brand for fashion magazines and celebrities.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
When my husband and I came to the states we had nothing, just a strong will to bring French fashion to America. We have worked hard to achieve our dreams and with my passion for fashion design we built a brand selling to high end department stores as well as our own Bisou Bisou retail chain, followed by becoming JCPenney’s first ever designer partner. Since we started from scratch I have held every job title you can imagine for a fashion brand. With this experience I am able to direct my team and lead them based off my knowledge of all jobs.

How was your previous employment experience aided your position as a fashion designer?
I have never had any other employment experience besides Bisou Bisou. It was my vision and creation and still going strong after 27 years.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure as a fashion designer?
My greatest challenge initially was the language. Then to get everyone to see the vision for the French fashion I wanted to bring to the American woman. I brought new fabrics with stretch and drape to enhance the female form in a beautiful and sensual, not vulgar way. At first there was resistance and I had to work hard to have them understand my direction and vision. My greatest highlight is when I signed the deal to be an expulsive brand for JC Penney. To be able to bring my fashion to a bigger audience was so important and has been extremely rewarding.

What advice can you offer woman who are seeking career in a creative industry?
In anything in life, you have to love what you do to be successful, without that you will struggle. This business can be very challenging and takes a ton of commitment. For creative people it’s not a job, it is who you are. Fashion is about an attitude and a message.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I take care of myself and feed my many passions which keeps me alive, stimulated and grateful for each day. I am not only a fashion designer, I have many roles: a wife, mother of 7, grandmother of 10, artist and yogini. I love all of them, but I know if I am not taking care of myself that I will not be good at any of them. Spirituality is important to balance and renew, and my practice in yoga helps me achieve that.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Work/life balance is the biggest issue for women. I understand that and most of my staff is female so it is important to me that I accommodate their schedules and needs to address family responsibilities.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I am blessed to have had success and it’s important for me to give back. I love to share that with students and youth. Giving back fills my soul and I also learn in the process. Last year I worked with fashion design students from India it was very inspiring. I am always mentoring and currently I am getting certified as a Iyengar teacher so I can continue to mentor in areas outside fashion.

Which other female do you admire and why?
I admire many women. I respect females unique gifts and talents and take inspiration from them for my own personal growth.

What do you want to personally and professionally accomplish in the next year?
Professionally, this year I am working to expand my Bisou Bisou collection at JCPenney to include active wear and other categories. I am excited to expand my brand and bring my fashion to more women. Personally, I am always expanding my spirituality and this year I will be opening a meditation and yoga center called NAMASTDAY, living yoga. This is a place where everyone will meet themselves.
Source: Huff Post

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