Make Life Beautiful With Charlotte Reiss
Her authentic approach to living beautifully has made Charlotte Reiss a favorite of ours for a while now.
Founder of Vivi et Margot, a Traditional French homewares shop based in the USA, Charlotte began her journey in search of beauty.
After buying and renovating a 200-year-old French farmhouse with her husband, Charlotte began documenting her affinity for the countryside and beautiful hand-made French pieces on social media, quickly inspiring others with her aesthetic.
In 2015, Charlotte opened her shop Vivi et Margot, bringing authentic French products to the American marketplace through pop-up shops across the country and their e-commerce site.
Charlotte’s work has been featured in Martha Stewart, Country Home Magazine, House Beautiful, and several other publications. Today, we’re excited to introduce her as our latest guest for our “Make Life Beautiful” Q&A series and share our conversation about her inspiring journey.
What was your very first job — ever?
When I was about fifteen, I worked as a waitress in a tearoom in Marlborough, England, called Polly’s Tea Rooms. It was one of those typical, quaint little English places. I styled my short just like Princess Diana’s, and my uniform was a flouncy floral dress and a white-frilly apron that I felt so awkward in. I was very shy in my teens, and I remember being terrified of taking orders and serving hot tea, just wishing they would let me work in the bakery at that front. They didn’t, and I didn’t last too long there.
Charlotte in her Mother’s kitchen in the neighboring village in France.
Tell us about your journey into the creative Industry; when did you realize that you could turn your passion into a career?
I always knew I wanted to do something in the creative space; I just didn’t know what my journey would look like. I was the girl who collected Vogue Magazines and spent all of my money on clothes, and in my late teens and early 20’s, I wanted to work in Fashion. After moving to London and getting a job for a clothing brand called Jaeger, I met someone at a dinner party who thought I would make a great talent agent someday and wanted to interview me.
I started at the absolute lowest of the company, spending hours taking Polaroids of male models, making photocopies, and writing handwritten faxes. Slowly I worked my way up to start my own division scouting female models and got a job in NYC. At 23, I moved to America by myself and worked as a talent agent in the Fashion Industry for 25 years.
Working behind the scenes in Fashion certainly gave me an eye for detail, especially in taking photographs. When I started Vivi et Margot, it was just an Instagram page where I would post images of my home in France and pretty things that caught my eye.
I was always bringing beautiful hand-made items from France back to LA to gift or decorate my home with, and my friends started asking me where they could purchase French pieces in America. There wasn’t really anywhere to find them at the time, so I decided to open up an online shop as a hobby. One night, my husband and I uploaded some products on a free website platform, created a $50 logo, and slowly, “Vivi et Margot,” grew.
There were times when I had worried that I had taken on way too much, but I loved it, and when you love something, you just figure it out.
I was working fifty hours a week and had just had my second baby, but starting the shop was a creative outlet for me, and I loved every aspect of it. I would come home from work, bath my kids, put them to bed, take a deep breath, and work on the store. It didn’t exhaust me; it excited me because I really found something I was passionate about. There were times when I had worried that I had taken on way too much, but I loved it, and when you love something, you just figure it out.
After years of working on the shop over weekends and late nights, I finally took the enormous leap of faith and retired from the Fashion Industry in 2019 to follow my passion and focus full time on Vivi et Margot.
As I begin the second chapter of my life before turning 50, I know that I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing. Vivi et Margot is a true reflection of my “authentic self,” and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
A swoon-worthy vignette from Charlotte’s kitchen via @vivietmargot..
Charlotte’s bedroom at her home in France.
If you could go back in time and give your young creator self one piece of advice, what would it be?
To be curious and say yes to opportunities. On the creative front, I feel that every choice I made, be it rational or not, led me to be where I am today. Many will disagree with me, but my path was not educational, I chose not to go to University. I knew I wanted a life of creativity, and I was ready to explore the world and start my career.
When it comes to opportunities, I am a “yes” person. I said yes when I was offered that first job in London. I said yes when I was offered a job in America. I said yes to the challenges of running a modeling agency, and I said yes to a blind date that led me to my husband. I am not a ditherer on decisions. Therefore, the advice I would give to my younger self is based upon something less tangible, which molds us for the future. I would say- have confidence in yourself, your body image, and who you want to be. Living a beautiful and authentic life cannot begin until you believe in yourself and your decisions.
Charlotte’s kitchen dining-ready from @vivietmargot.
Where do you find the most inspiration for your work?
My husband and I decided to purchase a very old house in France and renovate it together (I am lucky that he is as adventurous as me.) I find endless inspiration there and in Europe as a whole. I feel sheer joy wandering the streets for hours, gazing out of the window, driving around the countryside, or simply walking to a market.
I am a sensitive person and very emotional. The simplicity of a moment of beauty, such as walking through a lavender field or a pretty village steeped in history, can get me choked up. In these moments, I go very quiet and absorb every detail.
When I’m not in France, I love to watch old movies, learn about history, admire various different design styles, and use Instagram as a tool for escapism and visual inspiration.
What was the most significant business or creative challenge that you have encountered and grown from?
Fairly recently, I was approached by a great publishing house and was asked to write a book. They presented me with a proposal and a stunning layout, and it was surreal to see my life and journey from LA corporate life to my farmhouse in France on the pages. I was excited at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that despite the financial gain, the time wasn’t right.
My story isn’t over yet. In a way, it’s just beginning. I knew I would be doing a disservice to myself to share only half of it. I reluctantly declined the offer, trusting that when the time is right, I will know.
Charlotte in her element via @vivietmargot.
What has been your biggest achievement? When was the last time you thought, “Wow, I can’t believe I just accomplished that!”
Moving the online shop business into a warehouse in the USA for 2021. In six years, we went from a tiny little online shop to having an entire warehouse. That is still hard to wrap my head around, actually!
I live by the phrase, “Instead of saying to yourself, what if it doesn’t work out? Try saying to yourself, but what if it does?”
Which upcoming project or endeavor are you most excited for?
I am most looking forward to settling into France permanently in 2021. We’ve decided to make the leap, move from America, and sell our home in the French countryside to move to Provence. After years of dreaming about living that lifestyle, it’s hard to believe we will be raising our girls there in a few short months.
On the business side, I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds, quite honestly. Be it hosting a design or lifestyle show, working on a licensing deal, or even opening a focal brick and mortar. I have never let the fear of the unknown stop me from moving forward, and I never will. I live by the phrase, “Instead of saying to yourself, what if it doesn’t work out? Try saying to yourself, but what if it does?”
A beautiful breakfast scene from @vivietmargot.