An Interview with Aimée Gille of La Bien Aimée
This month we chatted with our December Pom MAL sponsor, Aimée of La Bien Aimée. Aimée has been a stockist of Pom Pom for many years in addition to being a guest editor in 2020, a vendor at Pom Fest in 2017, and of course supplying her yarns for many designs in Pom Pom over the years. And of course, she dyes one of the best yellows in the business.
Can you share the story behind the founding of La Bien Aimée? What inspired the start of the business?
I have been an entrepreneur for 15 years but have only owned La Bien Aimée for 9 of those years. Before LBA, I owned Paris’ first knit cafe, L’OisiveThé which opened its doors in April 2008. I ran a fully functioning restaurant/café and sold yarn at the same time! It was an exciting new concept at the time. I really loved my years as a yarn shop owner selling fun and creative yarn brands from all around the world.
Then in 2015, I founded La Bien Aimée. After selling other yarn brands for years and wanting to find something new, I decided to branch out on my own and create a hand-dyed line of yarn that reflected my vision of colour. Sophisticated colours with a bit of whimsy and storytelling, that were easy to wear and fun to knit!
In a market with various yarn brands, what sets your brand apart? What is the unique spark that you believe attracts customers to La Bien Aimée?
I think that knitters keep coming back to La Bien Aimée for the colours and the storytelling behind those colours. We are very serious about consistency of colour, as well. We are constantly reformulating and reworking repeatable colours to maintain their integrity. Also, La Bien Aimée offers many custom spun bases that are very unique to the market. I love layering colours together, but I also love layering yarns together or simply mixing bases. So, you will find a lot of thinner weight yarns from LBA that love to be held double or triple to create unique and exciting knitted fabrics.
How do you go about sourcing the materials for your yarn, and how do you ensure the quality of the colours used in your products?
I currently source from Europe, South America and Japan for my bases. Certain fibres that I like to work with come from these areas so it makes sense to have them spun there. For each new base that we develop, we have a Colour Development period. This means that I spend months with my dye team testing colours and techniques to see how they work on these bases. Not all our new bases are adapted to all of our different dyeing techniques, like speckling for example. So for some bases we will only develop immersion dyeing techniques. Along the way, new colour ideas pop into my head, so often with a new base release comes a new colour release, as well!
Could you describe your design process and how you come up with the colour palettes for your yarn collections?
I believe that I have a very unconventional design process. I am constantly learning something new that is related to knitting or crochet. Recently, I have learned to use a drop spindle and it really has opened my mind to mixing colours within dyed fibres rather than using dye pigments. I learn through doing the actual blending and processing myself.
For new colours, I am often inspired by my travels and the people I meet along the way. Certain personalities and even sometimes what someone is wearing will catch my attention. I am influenced by pop culture and some of our most popular colourways are inspired by popular television shows like Game of Thrones or movies from Studio Ghibli, especially Hayao Miyazaki films. When developing a palette, I look at what colours are popular colours on the runways, and honestly when I’m out in the streets of Paris, I look at what people are wearing and what’s being shown in the windows of the shops. I then pin that colour in my head and go home and look at my colours that I already have in my collection and build something around those colours. I like to integrate some of our oldest repeatables into a new palette with a new colour. You can see how I’ve done this recently with our new line of yarn called Volute. It’s built around some of our most popular legacy colours with pops of newly created colours.
How does your brand engage with the crafting community, and what role do your customers play in influencing your products?
I would say that La Bien Aimée is a brand that champions community over competition. I love bringing people together through our passion for crafting. There is something very intimate about making something with your own hands and then being able to share it with someone. I love that moment of recognition you get when you realise that the stranger next to you gets what you are doing when you are crafting. My role is to accompany crafters on their journey through making. I am always so honoured to meet makers who come to me and show me their new garment they made in LBA. It still gives me chills and a strong emotional response every time. Often I get so inspired by my clients colour choices that I will use those colours for a design or a collaboration.
What are some challenges you've faced in the yarn industry, and how has your team overcome them? How do you adapt to changes in market trends?
The most challenging time since I started La Bien Aimée were the years of the pandemic. All of 2020 through 2022 were a struggle for my brand, especially the first year of the pandemic. I was working in constant emergency mode. Being the person that I am, I worked hard. It was the hardest I’ve worked since probably the first years of LBA when I was just starting things off with my small team. What happened was that we went back to a small team again but still had the workload of a company that had existed for 6 years. We did a lot of pivoting and evolving during that time. I also closed my café, L’Oisivethé, and my LBA brick and mortar shop. It was a very hard decision but at the same time one that saved me, my marriage, and my family. Closing the doors to my shops opened another one towards new opportunities like writing and curating knitting books.
How do you gather feedback from your customers, and how has this feedback influenced the evolution of your products?
We offer a free service called COLOUR ADVICE, it’s an email correspondence service where any maker can write to us to ask us questions about LBA, yarn, and patterns. Often a new release will come out from a maker’s favourite designer and the maker will write to ask how can I knit this in LBA? Can you help me pick colours? We are more than happy to pull colours and make bespoke colour palettes and bundles for our customers. These little emails are our way to stay in touch with the community.
Another way we stay in touch is our weekly newsletter we send out on Fridays at 4pm. Just in time for the weekend so that if you are having weekend coffee, you can read a letter from me talking about the week’s news. Lastly, we are continuing our virtual events. This was something wonderful that came out of the pandemic: being able to connect with people virtually. I was able to meet people from all around the world that I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to if these virtual events did not exist. Then, I had a series called Conversations with Designers and this was a great way to get to know some of the makers in our industry which include test knitters! Our newest virtual event that we have started recently is Knit Hour with La Bien Aimée. I bring together knitters to sit and knit and talk about what we’ve been working on. We invite everyone to join us to this free event. You can watch more of these virtual events on my YouTube channel: Aimée’s Knit Lab.
Where do you see your LBA in the next few years? Are there any upcoming projects, collaborations, or new directions you are excited about for the future?
This year has been a big year for me as it’s a culmination of almost two years of research and development of new yarn bases. For 2024 and 2025, I would like to work towards becoming a strong knitwear designer and being able to translate my vision for designs to patterns so others can knit along with me. I will continue to collaborate with designers and other yarn makers, as well.
Thank you Aimée! To be in with a chance of winning Aimée's yarn in the colour Yellow Brick Road in the bases Corrie Confetti and Mohair Silk, post any project from Pom Pom publications before 31 December on Instagram and be sure to tag @pompommakealong!