Friday 30 September 2016

The French brothers with bags of style

The Ballet brothers live in different parts of the world, but run their pre-loved designer bag company together

Published 11/07/2016 | 02:30

Nathan and Baptiste Ballet run a pre-loved luxury bags company together. Photo: Tony Gavin
Nathan and Baptiste Ballet run a pre-loved luxury bags company together. Photo: Tony Gavin

Brothers Baptiste and Nathan Ballet got on very well together as children growing up in Normandy, although there was that one occasion where Baptiste was instrumental in his younger brother's broken arm. "He didn't do it on purpose," laughs Nathan, now 26.

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"We were playing soccer and I was the goalkeeper. Baptiste took a shot and I fell defending it and broke my wrist. We certainly did beat each other up at times as kids, but we got on very well. We both loved sport and were on the same handball team, so we were always together."

The handsome brothers grew up in Rouen and are two of Veronique and Bernard's four sons. Their parents and youngest brother Mael, 18, moved to Singapore three years ago, as their dad works in an oil and gas firm in Malaysia - only a 30-minute drive away. Their mum is a former children's nurse, and brother Evan, 21, is studying finance in Bordeaux.

Baptiste, now 29, studied business at university in Normandy. The idea for the retail business came about when a woman asked him to help her sell her designer goods on eBay, and it made a lot more than they both expected. Baptiste soon realised that he could make more money that way than in his full-time HR internship.

He began sourcing and selling bags in 2009, and Nathan worked with him part-time while studying mechanical engineering. They joined forces full-time in 2011 to establish Brand Connection. Their passion for French luxury and traditional handcrafting saw them specialising in rare and vintage Hermes pieces, and they extended their expertise to prestigious French labels such as Hermes for its legendary pieces and Louis Vuitton for its luggage.

They now source and deliver a wide collection of luxury, pre-owned leather goods, luggage and accessories to keen buyers, and are renowned for being able to find rare gems. "All the bags are in excellent condition," Baptiste explains. "We sell through our website and do trunk shows and antiques shows all over the world. Members of our website receive notification of our deals or the selections we are doing for them, and we have a great Facebook page with over 100,000 members."

The brothers explain that people like to come to the trunk shows so they can examine the pre-loved bags they're buying in person. Obviously, authenticity is hugely important, so by meeting the brothers they can be assured they're dealing with experts. "We have price ranges for everyone, starting from $300 and going up to $250,000," Baptiste explains.

While they were originally based in Paris, the brothers opened an office in Dublin in 2013, and do regular trunk shows here. Nathan is based here and lives in Drumcondra, while Baptiste lives in Texas. "We chose Dublin because we were expanding our activity throughout Europe, and had trouble getting English-speaking staff who could communicate properly with foreign clients," says Nathan. "We originally thought about London, but heard a lot of good things about Dublin so we decided to give it a shot. Also, there is a lot of talent here, so we can find IT specialists, social media specialists and everything else we need here. One of the things that struck me was the atmosphere, and the people are really welcoming and nice."

The brothers have six people working for them here, while others work at their offices in Texas, Tokyo and France. They keep in constant communication and are on the phone every day, and say it works well as they can focus on different regions by living so far apart. "Baptiste is the one who has the long-term vision for the company," says Nathan. "He is very driven and knows what he wants and is also really good at sales and business. I'm an introvert and a shy person, while he is an extrovert and the talkative one. As a brother, he is caring and we both have strong family values. We like to take vacations together and stay as close to the family as possible."

Baptiste says that Nathan is a "calculation machine," and their skills complement each other. Of course, there is a huge level of trust between them, as brothers. "Nathan is an engineer and he knows about all the systems you need in a business," says Baptiste. "Sometimes I'm too passionate and can't see if my idea is actually good, because I might love a particular bag, but if it isn't going to make money, it's no good for the business. As a brother, Nathan is very sweet and patient, and I like to have him as an adviser with business, relationships and life."

One of the things that helped Nathan settle is that he met his Polish girlfriend Joanna here, and they are now together for a year and a half. Joanna has come on board with the company as head of accounting. Baptiste's girlfriend Tana is half Peruvian/half Japanese and she divides her time between Japan and the US. They are together three and a half years and speak Spanish together. Tana is a graphic designer, and she does the company's design work.

Nathan and Baptiste would ultimately like to create their own auction house and expand their retail activity into other countries like South America. "We also have enough resources to find really unusual things that people want," says Nathan "We want to promote French brands like Balenciaga, Chloe, Hermes, Dior and Celine, because we are proud that we're from France."

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