Marin Amsellem - Monaco changed my life

Marin Amsellem – Monaco changed my life

Israeli-born Marin Amsellem relocated to the Principality as a personal stylist, but she quickly recognized a gap in the local market and smartly capitalised on it. While she remained true to her values, this inspiring young lady now owns the Lily Rose fashion label and the Fairfax sneakers store in the heart of Monte-Carlo. We talked to her about her experiences and businesses, while she also shared with us her captivating view on the style of women and men in Monaco.

It happened ten years ago, while visiting the Principality of Monaco for the first time as a tourist  wishing to witness the legendary Monaco Grand Prix in person. A momentary glimpse of life in Monaco forever changed the Tel Aviv, Israeli born Marin Amsellem’s life.

I remember sitting at the Sass Café when I saw a very stylish lady passing by with her dog. I found her super classy, and started to think about her life,” – remembers Marin. “She left such a bold impression on me that I imagined that one day I could be like her. This really made me want to live in Monaco.

Surrounded by so much beauty, an unusual sight, filled Marin’s mind with dreams. The clean streets and abundant luxury also contributed to her first, striking memories of Monaco. However, it was, without doubt, in that moment at the Sass Café that the Principality truly and fully captured her heart.

Marin relocated to Monaco gradually, moving first to Villefranche-sur-Mer, living in a villa with a large garden and swimming pool. As wonderful as it was, however, Marin soon realised that something was missing from her life, something very important.

Even though I was “in the neighbourhood”, I realised that I was spending more time at the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel’s swimming pool than at the one at my villa. It was then that I understood that I was looking for connecting to people and ambiance. So, I said to myself, if I want to live in Monaco I should actually live there, especially because the Principality offers many more events and programs during off-seasons than the Cote d’Azur’s other cities.

In 2021, ten years after her first visit, Marin moved to the Principality of Monaco with her family.

In an ironic but delightful twist of life, which also provides fitting closure to the story of how she fell in love with Monaco, Marin, as a resident of the Principality, still lives in the same building as 10 years ago, which happens to be just above Sass Café.

Each time I leave my apartment, I go back to that vivid first memory of seeing that classy lady, and I re-live that moment knowing that I am now also living the Monaco dream. It is a wonderful reminder that dreams really can come true.

How would you compare your home country Israel to Monaco?

I grew up in Tel Aviv which has many similarities to the Principality, for example, they both have nice beaches and excellent restaurants, but it is not possible to compare the two countries. First of all, Israel is a young country with lots of modern buildings, while in Monaco every building has a history and tells a different story. 

You have a lot of very good people in Israel, but I find that service and class in the Principality of Monaco are at a much higher level,” – concludes Marin.

Is there anything that you miss from Israel?

Probably, the food,” – she laughs. – “I found it strange that there is no Kosher restaurant in Monaco. Especially, since Monaco has one of the largest Jewish communities in the world compared to the size of the country. There were occasions where some of my religious friends who came to Monaco ended up eating boxed meals in their hotel rooms because none of Monaco’s restaurants offer food that caters to observant Jewish people.

You are an established business owner, the individual behind the Lily Rose fashion label and the Fairfax sneakers store in Monaco.  You started your career as a personal stylist and you are still very active in the field.

Why did you want to be a personal stylist? How did it start?

I always say that I did not choose the job, rather, it chose me. It just happened as I started to share my life in Monaco on Instagram. People connected to the idea that a young woman like me was able to relocate to this exceptional place, and they were keen to see how I would adapt my life here. There was continuous interest in what I wear, how I dress, where I go, and in general, how the way I lived had changed. Through my photos, many women imagined living this dream.

So, you actively use Instagram to communicate about your life?

It was hard in the beginning, because I was very apprehensive about publicly sharing images about my private life. Then I started to get messages from women in Israel asking for fashion advice, about where I found some of my clothes and shoes. Next, friends of mine started to ask me to buy and mail them various items. All this brought about the understanding that I had the capacity to  inspire people.

Going from doing favours for friends to establishing an actual business is quite a big leap. Can you describe how this transformation happened?

Absolutely. When I started to become very busy with satisfying people – since my clients always recommended me, it became my philosophy to create a world of happy clients. I remember my ex-husband once told me something interesting. He said that most people don’t like to ask for favours, however, if they give you something in exchange, then they feel good about it. As a service, they are more likely ask for it, than if it was a favour, and this is a scalable business model.

At this point, Marin accepted that she needed to go beyond her desire to please people, and to create something bigger. Of course, she also had to care for herself and her own life, helping out others was time-consuming.

I began asking for a small commission on the purchases I made for others. This made me feel better and it also recast what I was doing as a service, not a favour. You could say that I officially became a personal stylist as I converted my hobby into a business.

Marin also registered her company in Monaco, called Vie Chère, which caters to clients from all over the world. She chose this name because it defied the rules.

As a personal stylist, Marin had the advantage of frequenting all types of shops that sold major brands. This allowed her to locate hard-to-find items for her clients. More and more requests for such items came in, leading Marin to identify a gap in the market. This motivated Marin to establish the fashion label, Lily Rose.

My private clients were always looking for specific types of items that could not to be found, and very possibly didn’t exist. It was obvious to me that these requests reflected a broader market need for a fashion label capable of supplying these missing items. I did not invent anything new, I just listened to what people wanted.

How would you describe your fashion label, Lily Rose?

Lily Rose is a stylish and comfortable brand,” – Marin summarises. – “Our first product was a jogging suit, as my clients were looking for something stylish, good-looking, and comfortable. We had to find a good balance and create a product that did not look like pyjamas but was definitely not embellished with tons of Swarovski bling-bling. Taking on this challenge, I formed Lily Rose.

Does Lily Rose represent your personal style as well, or is it more to address a general market preference?

Even though I often dress in a formal style, it’s important to me to always feel comfortable. When I was a young girl, the comfortable Lily Rose look was my main look and it also resembles my way of life. With that said, we are now expanding our offerings with other products as well. Beyond the visual aspect, I am also very conscious of the environmental impact of all my decisions relating to Lily Rose. We use eco-friendly materials, recycled cotton, for example, thus sending a message that resonates with the new, eco-caring generation.

When speaking of fashion and style, do you think it is important that dresses are comfortable?

When women or men feel comfortable, they look much better.

Do you think it’s easy for women to be stylish and comfortable at the same time?

No, it is not easy at all. It is not easy to look sexy, classy, and comfortable, as well. Trying to achieve all of these in a single package is a primary reason why many people reached out to me and took my services.

Your customer base is very much international. Does it ever happen that you see people wearing your jogging suits in Monaco?

Of course, quite frequently. I often find myself walking along Avenue Princess Grace seeing many women wearing my joggers. It always fills me with great pleasure and compliment seeing them wearing Lily Rose. It’s great to be able to capture the taste of women in Monaco because many of them are deep into fashion. Funny, at one point, during the heights of the pandemic, I found that Lily Rose had become the local dress code in Monaco,” – giggles Marin.

As a loving mother, Marin’s pride and joy are her two daughters, Chloé Sarah and Lily Rose. What inspired you to use your second daughter’s name for the fashion brand?

When I was pregnant with my second child, I already knew that I wanted to create a fashion brand. Since my children are my world, the idea to name my brand after them came to me quite naturally. My first daughter’s name was already taken, as Chloé is the name of a well-established fashion label.

So you went for Lily Rose, the name of your second child?

Yes, and there’s a wonderful story behind the name as well. I remember one day when we were in St Tropez, we hired a nanny for Chloé who turned out to be a true-life angel. Her name was “Lily Rose”. I was awestruck and deeply moved because I felt that the name was so beautiful, as was the person who bore it. It was an instant decision that Lily Rose would be the name of my second daughter.

I found an interesting twist to the name – Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradise’s daughter is also called Lily Rose, and she is presently Chanel’s primary model. There was no question in my mind that Lily Rose would be the name of my future fashion brand.

Is your eldest daughter, Chloé, jealous?

Oh yes. She is very jealous. I am considering launching another brand under her name, but not necessarily a fashion label. Probably something like a jewellery brand.  She will never feel comfortable with things as they are, and neither will I because I love them both equally.

What is the ideal target group or demography for Lily Rose?

It depends on your personality. My best friend is an older woman. She has great taste and when she travels, she always uses my joggers. She has all the colours that we offer, and whenever she flies somewhere, she brings a jogger with her. They are perfect for traveling because they are comfortable and colourful, and one still looks very chic wearing them.

Lily Rose was launched in February 2021, right in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Do you think that this was an ideal time to launch a jogging suit line?

I think the pandemic created a new fashion. Even in Monaco it led many women to change their taste. They realized they can be stylish and at the same time feel comfortable at home when they receive teachers, deliveries, or anyone who rings the bell. They also look good with our outfits when they go out shopping. 

When I created our line of joggers, I focused on an existing fashion problem, envisioned a solution, and made the vision a reality that many women could benefit from.

Do you think Monaco had an impact on your own, personal transitions as well?

Yes, Monaco changed my life. I could live anywhere, perhaps Paris, but being in Monaco helped boost my marketing efforts. I could show the dream in real life. Consider shopping, for example. When it comes to shopping, there is nothing compared to Monaco. Here you can walk with multiple Gucci bags without worry, while in London or Paris, many people put newly purchased items into unlabelled bags for fear of bag snatchers or muggers. The safety here is second to none,” – says Marin. – “Moreover, living in Monaco has greatly honed my business sense as well. With Monaco being so international, I easily spot what’s missing, what people need because my clients call me from all around the world.

Going back to your primary activity in Monaco, what is the advantage of hiring a personal stylist and not just simply ordering items online?

I think some might say that they are the same, they are both shopping, but in reality, they are two very different worlds. Ordering over the Internet is a very cold process, while the key to my service is the personal aspect. I am not just a personal stylist who simply places the order, I actually give valuable styling advice, such as providing my opinion on whether sizes are true, on the characteristics of fabrics – for example, whether a certain material feels good, natural on the skin – and of course, on the overall feel of the product. 

If clients ask, I’ll also try on the products they’re interested in or that I’ve recommended in a store and send them photos and comments about the complete look and feel. I do this because in the end, they are trusting my personal opinion. In many cases, I already know what is going on in my clients’ dressing rooms, allowing me to pair pieces together that I know will match their taste. You will never get such advice in an online store.

Do you offer styling advice as well?

My service goes beyond styling advice. My clients also benefit from my extensive experience and expansive network,” – replies Marin. – “Experience counts a lot in my line of business. For example, in the case of certain designer shoes, the size you need often differs from your actual shoe size, where they typically tend to be bigger. Also, I have an extensive, worldwide network. It can happen that a specific item, colour, or size is not available in your country of residence. I, on the other hand, am able to deliver such items through my collaborative network that includes shoppers all around the world.

Presumably, these were important assets during the lockdowns?

It is much more than that. Sometimes I do video calls with my clients, giving them the feeling that they are right there with me, shopping in Monaco. I received many requests like this from people who were unable to travel because of Covid. It is also a form of entertainment for many of them.

Which do you like better – shopping alone or with a client?

That’s an interesting question. I like both, depending on the client, of course. When you share the same taste and style, it is always easy to go shopping together with a client. However, I also enjoy it when the client does not know what she wants. 

I like the challenge of creating a new style and look for my clients, even if they don’t have the same body type or aren’t the same age as me. The biggest challenge, however, is not style rather the client’s personality, which is hard to determine because in some cases, I only see the client in photos and not in person. With that said, my intuition is so strong that I not only understand who I am, but also who they are. This is why I sometimes dream about creating a big event where I invite all my clients and hug them,” – laughs Marin.

Who is your ideal client?

Being completely honest, everybody. The range of people that can benefit from my service is so diverse. Even new moms ask me to buy their babies’ first dresses while still at the hospital. I also have young clients who buy through me for their parents. But if you ask me, the average age of my clients is between 30-60.

Generally speaking, do your clients have poor taste?

Hahaha, we all have individual tastes and I respect that. In some cases, I see extremes, but my clients continue to come to me for advice. Honesty is very important for me. As such, it is quite normal that I try and guide a client towards a positive change. Of course, I need to be careful to find the right balance. I want to uplift my client, not make them feel bad or uncomfortable. 

Having said that, I truly believe that honesty is the best policy, and sometimes we need to tell a client that an item is not a good fit for them, even if it may result in losing him or her. I am always authentic with my answers and opinions, even if it means losing a sale.

How would you describe the typical style of women in Monaco?

I take a lot of inspiration from the women of Monaco since their style is a mix of different cultures. For example, I love the Russian women because they have a classic look, the French women are very chic, and older women in Monaco bring a lot of class without too much bling-bling.

You often wear hats. What, in your opinion, are the most essential accessories for a woman?

You can definitely say that, as I wear a hat about 90% of the time. I think it completes “the look”. Even if you dress sporty, a nice cap completes it. But it is not the most important accessory,” – starts Marin. – “The first things I always look at on a lady are bags and shoes. Bags tell a lot about a woman, because they reflect their personalities and their sense of style. Also, shoes say something about the aesthetics. Shoes are the first things I look at on a man.

Do you advise men as well?

Of course, I have many men clients. I have to confess, however, that men usually ask me for help after I have already worked with their women partners. I find it interesting that many men are a little bit shy when it comes to personal shopping or styling. This is probably because they are so confident in other areas of life that they think that asking for professional styling advice might make them look weak.

That is an interesting perspective.

For example, a Swiss businessman came to Monaco on his private yacht and he hired me to dress his children. After that, I was asked to dress his wife and finally, the husband, the businessman himself, wanted to come as well. I dress a lot of men but, in general, women are the ones who are more likely to follow the latest fashion, and they adore when a man spoils them,” – Marin gives a cheeky smile.

Are there enough stores for men in Monaco?

Most of the stores in Monaco focus on women. However, you can find very classy shops for men too. You have options like Dior, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Giorgio Armani. It is possible for men to dress classy in Monaco. You can also see that many men that live here dress very nice and have a very clean look. True gentlemen do not show off with brand logos.

I have found that it is typical in life that the wealthier you are, the less you want to show it. Make no mistake, I like when there is a touch of brand, so you can see that the item is not too plain, but I always suggest having a healthy balance. The loudest fashion victims, looking like multi-brand billboard advertisements are usually wannabes.

Did you have a lot of inquiries during the pandemic?

It was a tricky situation. Obviously, the business grew exponentially, as most people were forced to stay at home and could not travel. I provided the best solution to get the items they wanted. On the other hand, styles and demand changed dramatically because there were no events. For instance, ladies did not purchase gala dresses because there were no occasions to wear them. The entire spectrum of consumer behaviour changed. 

I consider myself lucky because, thanks to the lockdown and travel restrictions, I got to know many new people, and most of them became my clients. So, it turned out that the pandemic eventually pushed my business towards growth.

Were you also approached by fashion brands who might consider you as their first touchpoint with future clients?

Yes, I work closely with many brands in a mutual relationship, as I am an excellent channel for bringing them clients. I also advise local stores regarding their stock. For example, some stores only bring “Princess-style” dresses to Monaco, while their other flagship stores have large selections of sporty and cool items. The shop owners and I often discuss my clients’ needs, and I think that I  have substantially influenced many shops to change their views regarding Monaco as they are becoming more focused on actual local needs.

Do you work with local shops in Monaco or more with international ones?

I try to buy most items in Monaco. First of all, because I live here. Secondly, because I would like to see these brands prosper in the Principality. I like to give them the satisfaction of selling and growing their stores.

Do you post paid promotions on your Instagram?

Many brands contact me to promote their goods, but I only accept if I really like the item. I always explain to the brands straight away that I have a well-established client base because they trust me, and I present them with the right things, the items that best suit them. Therefore, I only post looks that align 100% with my taste. I also advise my clients not to blindly follow all fashion trends. You should always wear what is right for you, your size, your body, and your age. Do not be a fashion victim. Look for pieces that are stylish and comfortable because these items will elevate your confidence. Unfortunately, I see many people with logomania. As you know, when you have too many logos on you, it can have a reverse effect and easily make you look ridiculous.

In some cases, you’ve also endorsed products such as Richmont Monaco machines.

Yes, I believe immaculate skin can elevate one’s look. It completes the beauty picture because our face is our ID. Part of my job is to make my clients look better in every aspect. I therefore began collaborating with Richmont Monaco to introduce a new beauty machine, co-branded with my name and endorsed by me.

In 2021, you and your ex-husband established Fairfax Monaco, a store dedicated to rare shoes. How did this idea come about?

I grew up as a surfer in Israel and my first style, as a young lady, was streetwear, skateboard style. My current preferences are a result of missing this style deep within my heart,” – laughs Marin. – “Usually, for professional meetings, I dress in a more classic way, but I often wear joggers and sneakers too. And don’t forget that I always look for what is missing in Monaco.

How was the store received?

When we opened the sneakers shop, it was a huge hit. It was heart-warming to see that everyone was wearing sneakers, from kids, to doctors and lawyers, and even His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco wore (and continues to wear) sneakers with his suits.

What do you think about the combination of suit and sneakers?

I think a nice classic suit with matching sneakers is the most beautiful style for men. It is also a way to show that you are down-to-earth. The key is to learn how to be stylish without seeming aloof because money alone does not bring class. It is easy to buy expensive things but that doesn’t mean that one is stylish. The idea is to learn how to combine simple items, like a simple t-shirt or sneakers, with top-level dresses. When someone has a lot of money, good taste, and style, they need to mix.

And what does Fairfax stand for?

The name of my store actually stems from the name of the famous street in Los Angeles, U.S.A., where they sell all the different types and brands of sneakers. It is also a Jewish street which helped cement our choice of name.

Who is the target group for the store? The younger generation?

Our rush hour is after school, when the store fills up with young kids with excellent taste. However, it is funny and interesting that they always push their parents to come and buy and be cool as well.  We also have many young women, football and basketball players among our clients.

The price of a limited sneaker starts at around 300 Euro and the most expensive one at the moment is 6,000 Euro. What drives people to prefer a rare pair of sneakers over a traditional one?

We never push clients to buy these rare shoes. Yet, a community of people has formed who like wearing limited, special items, especially those featuring rare fashion collaborations. It is mostly people who want to be special and wear something that is very hard to get. People also give you a little smile when they recognise your limited shoes,” – winks Marin.

Do you also trade shoes online?

No, I am absolutely against it because my service is built on personal touch. It is part of who I am. For me, our clients are human beings, not just transactions. I believe in people. The human touch is everything to me.

Talking about personal advice, what would be your reasons be for recommending Monaco to a young woman?

Allow me to start by saying that living in Monaco is not easy. Monaco is a swimming pool full of sharks, so it is not necessarily a great place for young people to start their businesses. 

When I was establishing my businesses, I was faced with many stop signs – people consistently told me NO for rent, NO for a bank account, NO for opening a business, basically NO for everything. But I am the kind of person who never accepts “no” as an answer. The opposite is true. Hearing a “No” just gives me extra motivation to achieve my goals. When you close a door in front of me, I come back through the windows…,” – says Marin confidently. – “As a young woman, you have to be persistent to successfully make your first steps in the Principality of Monaco. If such tenacity is not part of your DNA, then you may be very disappointed. 

If you are confident in yourself, then Monaco is a place full of opportunities. It is a very secure place and once you become part of the local community this place protects you. The community here cares for its residents and this is why I want my kids to grow up here. People around you provide immense inspiration that opens up your mind. You can learn here, which will change your personality, but you need to be strong.

Talking about the local community and inspirations, your idol is the fashion designer, Giorgio Armani. Were you able to find someone who could make an introduction?

Yes, I met with Giorgio through one of my friends in Monaco who is very close to him. Since then, we began working together in connection to his brand and I have visited his fashion shows in Paris, Milan, and Dubai. It was very interesting to see the power of this very unique individual, both as a fashion designer and also as a charismatic person. He is a great inspiration, a strong and very talented man.

Did you learn something from these meetings?

I take a lot of inspiration from top-tier designers such as Coco Chanel or Karl Lagerfeld. They are my kind of fashion icons altough, sadly, they are no longer with us. Giorgio, however, is still alive and working hard. To see him at his craft, so close was a fairy tale come true. I hope that I will someday, reach a point in my future similar to those who provide so much inspiration in fashion and life. For every young person who wishes to achieve success, it is always important to see how such people put their dreams before everything else and how they reached their aims. They show that age is just a number and that it is all about one’s mindset.

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