JULIE & AURÉLIA OF CHEZ SIMONE
Julie and Aurelia met at a gym on Valentine's Day, and in under a year had transformed a daydream into reality.
Chez Simone, wellness hub housed in a Parisian apartment just a stone’s throw from the Louvre.
Inside/Out: How did the idea for Chez Simone come about?
Julie & Aurélia: Both of us had come to the same conclusion: Parisians needed a place to reconnect and exchange in a real, deep way. Julie, aka Mademoiselle Run, wanted a place better adapted as a starting point for her runs, to be able to widen the range of what she offered. Aurélia needed a place so she could host more people for the brunches she was organizing under the moniker Je Suis Bonne. Right place, right time, and since neither of us believe in luck, we took it as a sign!
I/O: What’s the atmosphere like?
J&A: Chez Simone is a place designed to do you good, based on three main principles - eating well, exercising well, and living well - that we feel constitute an ideal balance in life. Our aim was to break away from today’s “healthy living” trends, often overly conceptual and unrealistic. Our place is one where you can share, exchange, and express yourself without pressure.
I/O: Who is Simone?
J&A: We wanted to give the place a personality, and a human dimension - Simone is our inspiration. She can be Simone de Beauvoir, Simone Veil, Simone Signoret, Julie’s aunt…. All the women that have shaped and inspired us in different ways. When you go to a friend’s place for drinks or dinner, you want to feel cozy, safe, and have a good time. That’s the main thing we wanted to convey: when you’re at Simone’s place, you feel good.
I/O: How do you see your project growing within the next 3 years?
J&A: We want to open 2 new places. This apartment has a 20 person capacity, and we’re not going to change that. We want to stay true to our original aim and idea. Chez Simone exists nowhere else, and since we both believe in the benefits of multiculturalism, we’re already thinking about Chez Simone in New York, Rio, and a bunch of other places….
I/O: How do both your groups share the space? Do they have notable common points and differences?
J&A: The Mademoiselle Run women are into yoga, and more generally on advice as to how to better their practices. The people in Aurelia’s group are into yoga as well, but they like to try new things. They coexist naturally, because no one has a single focus nowadays. A common point they all have is a need for activity, and a need to share, which are key elements at Chez Simone. I’m not sure there’s much difference, maybe just complementarity.
I/O: A typical meal Chez Simone?
J&A: Lots of people around the table, enjoying generous, home-cooked food served on nice tableware, with the din of conversations in the background. We create our menus daily, which can be a little tricky to organize! But it’s working well for us; we go with what feels right.
I/O: What’s a necessary step to take in order for a digital community to evolve IRL?
J&A: The most important thing is to be true to yourself. When people feel authenticity, they’re inclined to accept a social media invitation. In today’s world, the occasions to make a good impression are rare, so you have to seize them. There’s so much bullshit and fakery on internet, because anyone can be anything behind their phones or computer, so people appreciate when your life and personality are close to what they see on social media. Dealing with human beings in real life is a whole other bag, not everybody can do it - we’re still learning ourselves!
I/O: Do you think Paris’ relation to sports has changed over the past few years?
J&A: It’s getting there! I think we french people are a little slower and more reluctant than others, we can express doubts. We’re different, as consumers, and always contradict ourselves, but once we get to it, we really look for ways to get the most out of our practice. France is getting up to speed on healthy living, and creating its own language: a mix between sports, apéro-style snacks and açai bowls. We love it!
I/O: How do you provide a warm atmosphere for people to feel comfortable to just drop by, even if they aren’t used to the whole sports club vibe?
J&A: You have to fully invest yourself, and be the first one to share. Then, it becomes easy for people to warm up, and feel less shy. We usually open with “Hi, welcome to Chez Simone.” We smile and are genuinely interested in others. Usually, when you introduce yourself and give people real attention, there’s a surprised reaction, and quickly they feel at ease, confident. That’s really our point of pride.
I/O: Why did you open the place up to male membership?
J&A: Because we don’t feel comfortable dividing it up along gender lines. Men and women are complementary, and our differences can make us grow. We’d like to organize events and workshops for women only, to celebrate them, but we don’t want to end up excluding another group. Our feminism is stronger than ever since starting this business, and we want to end prejudice against the term itself: being a feminist is taking pride in being a woman, and wanting to take the place we deserve while respecting men and their role.
I/O: What practices would you like to see France adopt in the coming years?
J&A: We’d like to go back to basics and foundations: real connection with our needs, listening to our bodies and to others, respecting the environment, taking our time again and trusting our instincts more.
I/O: How about in the coming months?
J&A: No idea! French people are so paradoxical, which makes it hard to predict what they’ll want tomorrow. Isn’t that why the whole world looks at us with envy?
I/O: What’s the toughest challenge you’re facing these days?
J&A: Going the distance, professionally! We’re trying not to let this be a passing thing, we strive to renew what we offer, while keeping our standards high. Personally speaking, I want to learn to juggle, and start a family, keep making time for those around me while succeeding as an entrepreneur.
I/O: What’s your wildest dream?
J&A: To talk again in 5 years, and be able to tell you we’re happy, have accomplished things on every level, and that Chez Simone exists in major cities around the world!
I/O: What is your mantra?
Aurélia: Do things seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.
Julie: Know thyself. I believe it so much that I got it tattooed!