Boutique Focus… Tortue De Mer

Tortue de Mer is our first port of call for beautiful kaftans for all the family. Be they for unisex beachwear, comfortable breastfeeding cover ups, Boho loungewear – Tortue de Mer (named after the sea turtles on the founder’s favourite beach) provides a huge selection of gorgeous colours, a range of sizes – all made from 100% ethical cotton and cut in flattering, comfortable styles. As they are super affordable too, holiday packing just got simpler!

Founder Isabelle Riaille took time to tell us all about her boutique…

Isabelle & Lola

SM: How did concept for Tortue de Mer come about?

Isabelle Riaille: Early in the summer of 2006 I was looking for some light weight, airy, super comfortable cotton tops for my baby Lola. I searched my home town Nice, as well as London and Paris on weekend trips but found nothing. I then looked on the internet and a few clicks later I saw the following forum posting: “I want to buy kaftans for my girls (5 and 7) to wear on the beach and around the campsite etc.. I want 100% cotton. You know, the light voile stuff, not necessarily white, but pretty and practical.” I have found two for myself, but nothing for the girls. Anyone any ideas?” So I set out to fill this demand and created Tortue de Mer with the aim of making affordable summer wear in ‘voile de cotton’ in a rainbow of colours for women, babies, kids and teens.

SM: What has been your biggest challenge?

Isabelle Riaille: Definitely finding the right family businesses in developing countries to work with! I only work with family run enterprises, people that I know personally. Voahangy, for example, who supplies us from Madagascar started her garment making business over ten years ago in a small building with only one employee. Now Voahangy employs more than 100 women in a bright modern workshop. Alongside the workshop, Voahangy has built, equipped and staffed a school for the children of her workers, paid for and supported by the success of her business. The school fulfils Voahangy’s fundamental belief that education is the only long term solution to poverty.

SM: What does Lola like best from the collection?

Isabelle Riaille: As you will see looking at the children’s collection online – Lola has worn and been photographed in the entire range. She has worn Tortue de Mer all summer for years! I think she isn’t  that bothered about the look at her age so much but more about the freedom of movement and the cool comfort she feels when running along the beach or sitting on a giant tortoise!

SM: What has been the best bit of feedback you’ve ever had from a customer?

Isabelle Riaille: We ask every customer for feedback so it is difficult to mention one bit but I got a very nice letter from Elton John after he received the kaftan I sent for his son Zachary. Often people mention how much they like the mini Tortue de Mer beach bag I send with big orders, the hand written note to each customer and  ‘fleur d’orangier perfume’ that you smell when opening the package, the south of France touch!

SM: What are your bestselling pieces from the collection?

Isabelle Riaille: Beach kaftans and kaftan dresses are the best sellers. Once you have worn one you want more so repeat business is good!

SM: Turtles are obviously important to you and your family but was there a special moment that won you over to these creatures?

Isabelle Riaille: I’ve always admired these wonderful creatures that have been swimming freely and so gracefully in our seas for millions of years! They enjoy the perfect habitat where I like to be on days off – on the beach and in the sea! Sadly today, the seven species of marine turtles that still exist are all included on the World Conservation Union’s red list of endangered species. This is all because of us! Turtles don’t hurt us so how and why do we hurt them? Turtles get tangled in our fishing nets. Turtles are hunted for their eggs, meat and shells. Turtles are killed by marine litter such as plastic bags and balloons. They confuse floating plastic bags and balloons for jellyfish, which they eat. Turtles cannot digest plastic or rubber which blocks their digestive tract and so they tragically die from starvation.

(If you share Isabelle’s passion, read more about her turtle adoption and lend your support)

SM: What is next for the brand?

Isabelle Riaille: To continue in the same vein – providing new collections of timeless summer wear that is super comfortable and affordable in a vast choice of colours whilst giving people a sense to their purchases by supporting small family businesses in developing countries.

Editor’s pick: got a little adventurer prone to sunburned legs? Check out the range of unisex cottong trousers…