What comes to mind when you think of support hosiery? Grandma’s thick beige stockings? Mon Dieu! You’re not alone. And what if you’re a younger woman in need of compression pantyhose for circulatory health problems? This is the dilemma Juliette de Feraudy faced two years ago when she was only 24 years old.
An attractive and active legal jurist, she refused to believe she was condemned to wearing “50 shades of beige and black” for the rest of her life. She was so determined to find bearable and wearable hosiery that Juliette ended up quitting her job in Paris to create her own start-up Walleriana in 2015.
Imagine stylish compression pantyhose and socks in a rainbow of colors and designs to make you forget your need for medical support leggings! How smart is that? INSPIRELLE connected with this inspiring millennial to learn about her brilliant new business.
Juliette, how did a young woman who loves fashion come up with the idea for fashionable support pantyhose?!
I arrived in Paris six years ago, searching for a job as a jurist. At that time, I already had experienced light blood circulation troubles (especially during my summer job as a bartender working long hours). But it didn’t really bother me until I started working in an office, seated for countless hours in an uncomfortable position. I remember feeling heavy legs in the evening.
Then one weekend, four years ago, I went to a concert. It was very hot and humid outside, and as I stood there for hours, my legs turned red. They became very swollen, so much that I couldn’t see the difference between my thighs and my ankles. It was painful all night. My legs kept moving by themselves while I was fighting to fall asleep. That’s when I decided to go see a doctor.
The angiologist told me I would encounter big problems in the future if I didn’t take this seriously sooner rather than later, especially when pregnant. He gave me a prescription to buy my very first pair of compression pantyhose.
The day I entered the pharmacy was epic: the lady literally told me “we have countless shades of beige to match your skin carnation, and also black products, you’ll be amazed!”
Amazed I was… by the lack of choice!
That day, I cried my eyes out, and left with a pair of black pantyhose. That same day, I also searched the internet to see if I could find pretty versions of compression pantyhose in France. I didn’t.
Later, as I assumed I could not be the only 24-year-old girl with blood circulation deficiency, I decided to design my own products. I actually did not love fashion that much and had no skill whatsoever in this area, but I managed to do so as 50 shades of beige and black compression socks was not an option for me. I guess that is how Walleriana was born in July 2015 after I quit my job as a jurist!
Admittedly, compression hose have a reputation of being unattractive. How have you gone about changing this image?
There is a thing in France about medical products: they are not supposed to look nice. I actually heard this from someone working in the healthcare system! But perhaps it has to do with the way our healthcare system reimburses compression pantyhose in pharmacies. For you to have a “free” pair of pantyhose, you need a prescription from your doctor plus it needs to be either plain black or beige and cost under a certain amount. I think because these are cheaper to produce, they don’t cost much to reimburse.
I’m trying to go in a different direction. I don’t think “curing” blood circulation troubles is efficient. I think preventing them is much more effective. And prevention goes with wanting to wear products for your own good, which most people don’t because they find compression pantyhose unattractive. Making them look nice and sexy is a first step to prevent blood circulation deficiency from evolving into much worse diseases.
Just how can you make support hosiery fashionable?
Basic compression pantyhose usually are plain black or beige, and very thick. By making them thinner and/or cuter with nice designs and colors, you turn them into fashionable products, something people might really want to wear.
Creating a brand and actually wanting women to feel beautiful no matter their condition is also a big improvement. Until then, French brands in the compression area were only thinking about the medical aspects of it, completely putting aside the fact that more and more young women were affected by blood circulation deficiency, and cared more about their look than their health.
I did not want to have to make a choice between feeling beautiful and sexy or taking care of my well-being and my health. So I created products that matched both.
I also offer tutorials giving techniques on how to put these stockings on easier. It can be a bit tricky, as they are tighter than the basic pantyhose around the ankle, and less and less tight when going up the leg. That’s how it helps blood from staying in the lower parts of the legs that can cause swelling.
We often (wrongly) associate support pantyhose with the elderly. Obviously, this is not so. Who needs this garment and why?
People believe that compression pantyhose are for older people, because they only have seen their grandma wear them often! Blood circulation deficiency, unless part of the family genetics, usually appears when you got older. This is not true anymore. Our lifestyle, the food we eat, our job, everything has an impact on our health. For instance, women tend to mix smoking, bad food habits, and oral contraception altogether. This is a perfect cocktail for a future blood clot. If you add this with a longstanding or seated position (such as travel or work), to pregnancy, or no exercise at all, the chances of developing blood circulation deficiency increase. And it can appear whether you are a 55 year-old woman or a 20 year-old.
I say women, but men also are concerned by these troubles.
What led you to create your own start-up?
I genuinely don’t know how I went from wanting to create two or three pantyhose to manufacturing 600 to a thousand! At first, I only wanted to buy cute compression pantyhose in very small amounts just for myself and to sell here in France. I learned quickly that creating compression pantyhose with personal designs was very expensive for manufacturers, and it could not be done in small quantities. A manufacturer taught me about design and thankfully, my father lent me some money to start.
Honestly, I had no idea how to create a website. I had no idea where to find a photographer and a model for my first photo shoot. My boyfriend pitched in and made the online store himself using Prestashop software, and my roommate’s partner found the actor to be my first model and also produced the first photo shoot.
What I did know well was how to create a company from scratch (being a jurist was helpful). Also, a friend of mine was an entrepreneur and she gave me really good tips on where to start.
How easy or difficult has that been for someone as young as you?
It was kind of a mess the first few months: the launching of my website took longer than expected because my manufacturer was delayed in the production, the photo shoot took forever because in October, it can be very cold and rainy in Paris and we had no equipment for that kind of weather.
I think if I had to do it all over again, there are many things I would do differently. I probably would start with communications sooner. I would hire a coach earlier to help me on many levels. I started working with one in April 2015. I made lots of mistakes, but I guess this is how you learn!
I think it doesn’t really matter your age. You can be 24 and feel much older in your head because you’ve been through so many things in life. I never imagined becoming an entrepreneur. I just became one. As we say in French “j’ai foncé tête baissée” without really thinking about the consequences or even thinking about how far I wanted this to go.
What has been your most rewarding experience in creating Walleriana?
I love meeting with my clients. When they tell me I’m doing the right thing, that I’m changing a part of their life that was gloomy, that’s when I know I’m going in the right direction. Plus, when I’m wearing my own products and someone tells me how pretty they look, it’s a big reward!
Creating a start-up is a double full time job. Is there any time to pamper yourself?
I used to work both on launching Walleriana while continuing my full-time job as a jurist. THIS was complicated, in every possible way. I encountered a great deal of stress and anxiety, didn’t sleep much and took a 20 minutes nap to make it through the day and most of the night. My fiancé was also an entrepreneur so it was quite hard to spend time together. Now that I’m working full-time on my company and he has a more stable job, it seems like anything is possible!
I find time for myself. I MAKE time for myself. I like to read and write fiction, watch TV series when I go to the gym, do yoga and spend time with my friends. It helps me focus. I’m not a big fan of museums and of Paris, in general; I am more of a countryside lover as I used to live in the southwest of France. I try to go back there to spend quality time with my family and escape from the craziness of the city. I also love to travel and get most of my inspiration from discovering new places.