Aurélie Billat, a French native is the CEO of Depack (FG Design group), a 30 year old retail design company, based in Bordeaux with an office in Hong Kong. The agency mainly focus on creating space for luxury, beauty, fashion, wine and spirits brands like Calvin Klein, Shiseido, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Coach, Vacheron Constantin, Shanghai Tang, Veuve Clicquot and many fine wine châteaux in the Bordeaux region (Château Latour, Château Cheval Blanc, Château d’Yquem). We’re talking about retail stores, counter stand in department store airport duty free shops, pop up stores and showrooms. Aurelie brings her strong sense of French Art de Vivre to all retail creative proposals the agency receives.
She started her Marketing and Communications career at LVMH in Barcelona before moving to Paris to work on Dom Pérignon. She joined Depack 2 years ago when her friend, the founder of Depack called her spontaneously when he decided to sell his company and needed a CEO to run it.
How long have you lived in Bordeaux?
I have been living in Bordeaux for the past 5 years. I arrived in September of 2012 with my husband and children (5 and 7 years old) after a 12 year career spent between Barcelona and Paris. This made Bordeaux feel like a fresh start. Lonely Planet describes Bordeaux as the world’s best city to visit at the moment and it is easily connected to Paris thanks to the new TGV. Bordeaux is also home to the Cité du Vin museum and refers to itself as fans of the “gastronomic revolution” happening in the city.
When did you start working at Depack?
I joined Depack 2 years ago after 12 years in Marketing and Communication within the wine & spirits industry at LVMH. I have always been passionate about art and design (I have been painting and sculpting since I was 6 years old). Depack is a great opportunity to make things happen. Retail and visual merchandising have become a key element that helps brands to grow quickly. My previous position at LVMH allowed me to work with brands such as Hennessy and Dom Pérignon that already had a large brand awareness and required innovation using the luxury industry codes.
What is a typical working day like for you?
I ride my bicycle every day! It is very easy to take my children to school on my way to work. I live in a small and charming area of Bordeaux called “Les Chartrons” where you can go anywhere on a bicycle. No need for a car! The office is located in a very nice old typical house, where it is easy to have a coffee with people when they arrive. After a full day dealing with the designers, commercial and production teams, if I am lucky, I will have the chance to go surfing for an hour at Lacanau, which is only 50 minutes from the Bordeaux city center.
Most important thing you do for your business as CEO?
I definitely believe in fostering a relationship with people. Employees of course. But also the wider network. A good network can take your company to new levels. I have always been in touch with the people I met in the different companies I worked for and this has been a great help. I am a daily user of LinkedIn and each time I travel I try to inform people I know of the potential business opportunity that Depack provides.
What is the key to setting up a luxurious space that you find is common in all your project?
Attention to detail is key. We have to provide a very high level of service in order to deliver the best spaces possible. And, of course, an in-depth understanding of the brand’s DNA. Without it you cannot attempt to design for them.
What are the biggest problems/pain you encounter when you design luxury space for your clients?
Hong Kong specific ones?
It is a challenge to ensure top quality production and control every step of the process when the space has been designed in Bordeaux and is to be produced and set up in Asia (different ranges and references of materials etc., different cultures).
What’s great about running your business in Bordeaux and Hong Kong?
This is the strength of the agency, the Hong Kong office opens before Bordeaux and is able to work on things before Bordeaux even wakes up! When Bordeaux begins operating in the morning Hong Kong can lay the groundwork for the day ahead. We stay in constant communication enabling us to work with clients based worldwide. An example is Shiseido Travel Retail, based in Singapore. We have been working in Hong Kong since 1992 and more recently inaugurated a permanent office. Fine wines brought us there with the very first Vinexpo Asian exhibition. Since then we have never stopped developing our knowledge and business in the Asian continent.
Qualities you look for in your team members?
Mindset is key. People who love what they do will be happy at work and eager to communicate with all teams. It is positive energy that improves creativity.Your favourite place to have lunch meetings in Bordeaux?
La Bocca and the similarly named Bocca a Bocca, a small Italian restaurant and grocery, is known for its unforgettable truffle pasta and “H20” special dish. Mama Shelter, for its unprecedented roof top. Sisters, for its cool and simple setting and it’s the nicest place to have a coffee and take a break.
Do you collect art? if so which artists?
Tony Cragg, my sister-in-law has a gallery in Berlin. I was offered my first piece for my wedding.
Bastien Carré, for his magical lumigraphy. I discovered him at the Anne Laure Jalouneix gallery in Bordeaux
Marc Newson, for his futurist approach “cool and modern design” (through a partnership with Dom Pérignon I had the opportunity to gain experience with his team)
What is your favourite thing to do when you are in Bordeaux ?
Have a massage and swim at Sources de Caudalie in the middle of the Vineyards of Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Visit CAPC exhibitions and enjoy a brunch on the terrace at café André Putman and shopping in Rue Notre Dame (“la rue des antiquaires”).
What are the 3 most beautiful, unique places to visit in Bordeaux?
La Cité du Vin, L’Institut Bernard Magrez and Le Musée d’Aquitaine.
What are the top 3 brands you shop for clothes and accessories?
Michael Kors for the bags, the latest bag i bought is the Hamilton bag.
A new boutique brand “Héritiers Frères” created by a friend of mine for small leather accessories dedicated to my two IPhones!
Sergio Rossi for their high -heel boots!!!