Christophe Lépine attended a vocational school as a teenager, where he trained in electrical maintenance all the while developing a passion for mechanics. His daily routine revolved around technical training, engines, cylinders and pistons. “My hands saved me”, says Christophe when reminiscing about the path which led him to become an entrepreneur via his Bleu de Paname company, and all the “key people” who helped him pave the way. In his 20s, he worked for the French Ministry of Agriculture, in building maintenance, where he got the opportunity to learn a whole set of new skills. He then went on to obtain a HND in sales, and started making the rounds of industrial areas to sell electrical systems to companies, unions, hospitals and agri-food factories, never really losing contact with the industry workers.
On top of these various skills he learned, Christophe developed a healthy obsession for vintage sportswear and the sneaker industry quite early on. The “technical side of it”, vintage sports jerseys, trends in sport from the 1950s to the 1990s, and the history and rarity of these items fascinated him… Christophe would then be taken with an acute passion for collecting anything relating to these universes, which he liked to intellectualise. Thoroughly captivated by the genesis of the sportswear industry, he also got a very close look at the first baby steps of streetwear through his friend Thomas Giorgetti, a graffiti nut, who hung with his crew of uncontrollable artists. The more he got to spend time with this crew, the better he got at analysing the different styles relating to their out-of-the-ordinary lifestyles.
The product, and “pure and simple” selling. One of the “key people” Christophe was lucky enough to meet, was Seiichiro Shimamura, head of 0044, a French-Japanese vintage and prêt-à-porter brand, who gave him the opportunity to come work for his label.
Getting to work closely with the Japanese meant that Christophe could lay hands on rare pieces, sneakers and jeans, amongst others, which he would never have found in France. Christophe worked for the 44 brand as a production assistant, in charge of vintage purchasing. The only Frenchman among thirty-odd Japanese, he hunted sportswear, military and workwear vintage clothing throughout Europe (Rotterdam, Sweden, Belgium, The Netherlands…), with close-to-unlimited funds. This experience taught him how to recognize “the good and old material” and build a certain respect for and “relationship” with it. The first 44 store opened in 2001, on rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud in Paris. Christophe was the buyer for Nike and Patagonia as well as other brands. In 2002, he brought in the first Nike “quickstrikes” (very limited to rare editions) models, which were only available in a select few shops in France at that time. Brought in for his keen eye when it comes to sneakers, Christophe started working for Nike in 2004 as an expert with a sales edge. As the manager of the “Energy & Trend” department, he covered the entirety of France to provide a network of “legit” shops with the most sought-after of American products. Christophe learned how to love the product through the Japanese, and “pure and simple selling” while at Nike. In 2009, Mark Parker, CEO of the US brand, announced an upcoming mass layoff plan for the brand with the swoosh…
Despite having always felt at home at Nike, Christophe’s overall feeling of weariness was getting stronger. Also, he was beginning to feel like it was time for him to “tell a new story” while spreading a certain set of values. Bored by what was then happening on the men’s fashion scene, Christophe kept his eye on the rise of vintage clothing and “champagne socialists sporting workwear”… “There was obviously something to be done with French workwear, our cultural heritage. A much needed walk down the road less travelled.” This road would turn out to be Bleu de Paname, a made-in-France brand launched in 2009, which Christophe Lépine turned into a full-time job with his friend Thomas Giorgetti in 2011.
Christophe Lépine is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Bleu de Paname with Thomas Giorgetti. He is more specifically in charge of sales production and strategy, buying and profitability of Bleu de Paname products.
Paint it blue
Thomas’ school education was mostly creative, capped with a Master’s Degree in graphic arts. At the same time, he kept his passion for illegal painting alive by bombing everywhere he could, from the Paris area to Europe in a “100% dopamine and adrenaline-based” fast life. In 2002, he was arrested during a massive bust coordinated by the Parisian equivalent to NY’s “Vandal Squad”, a sort of railway police specialized in vandalism. Placed under judicial supervision, Thomas was forced to cool things down a little without actually stopping his regular outings in the French capital as “the most Parisian of all Suburbanites”. A man on top of the latest musical and clothing trends, immersed in skateboarding, basketball and hip-hop, he was obviously also a major sneakerhead, so much so in fact, that it became one of his specialties.
Still under judicial scrutiny, Thomas had to find a way to live his passion for graffiti in a more legal manner, in particular by writing about it for Radikal magazine, a reference in hip-hop press back then, and by starting his own fanzine, “Guerilla Urbaine”, which he printed at the French Communist League’s HQ (a first collaboration with French workers, whose workwear he would later take great pleasure in updating). While working at Radikal, he also dabbled in art direction, and the sneaker enthusiast in him had the idea of launching a magazine essentially dedicated to sneakers called “Lil’ Tyler”. “A hybrid magazine” which Thomas designed from cover to cover under Radikal’s helm, and for which he was the editor-in-chief for three issues. He was also a regular collaborator of Clark, Zurban or l’Officiel magazine.
Experience in the field. From his media vantage point, Thomas Giorgetti kept a keen eye on the bridges some were attempting to build between the fashion and sneaker industries (and the early days of streetwear as a whole).
A difficult endeavour as fashion entrepreneurs were finding it complicated to get in touch with sneakerheads. Thomas ended up being the best placed to help them do so. As a freelancer, he started consulting for various brands, developed media and non-media design and art direction services and learned the basics of fashion design.
A jack-of-all-trades, just like his friend Christophe Lépine, Thomas gained his experience in the field, his cultural, visual and clothing background as fuel to keep moving forward. A Nike ambassador from 2003 to 2007, Thomas contributed to Thibault de Longeville’s essential sneakerhead documentary “Just For Kicks”, the premiere of which, in a theatre on the Parisian Grands Boulevards, would represent a key moment for him as well as many other “Sneakers Addicts” (a term Thomas has trademarked). He was also the co-founder of the ADN SNKR Lab shop, for which the opening brought together the elite of the French hip-hop scene. With his proven track record, Thomas was regularly called upon by sneaker brands, in particular regarding “Creative briefs” for Adidas, Puma or even Asics…. With the HEAVEN consulting agency, Thomas would develop Nike’s first brand blog, “The Daily SNKR”, a project rewarded with the CB News prize in 2004.
Thomas Giorgetti burrowed deeper into the media industry by collaborating with SPRAY magazine in 2007, only to become its Editor-in-Chief under the incentive of the sorely missed founder of the Brotherhood publishing company, Bruno Débauché. At the very heart of the textile trends and market, Thomas dreamt of a “generic but cool” clothing brand. 5 years after leaving his old life behind to build Bleu de Paname from scratch with his friend Christophe Lépine, the 100% made-in-France Parisian label has grown from this simple dream into a full-fledged major player in the Parisian menswear scene.