Jeanne Damas likes to remind us: Rouje is about women. Paths intertwined, inspiring encounters, ideas that linger. Throughout these portraits, she gives a voice to some feminine figures whose stories resonate with her. Discover her Rencontre en Rouje with Awa Cissé.
Bonjour Awa! It’s so nice to meet you, we’ve been DMing for some months now. I’m so happy we finally got to meet in person!
You have a corporate job and a side project, can you first tell me more about your job in human resources (HR)?
I have always had a strong interest for all things social and human and I really like psychology. I was very inspired by my sister-in-law who used to work in a big corporation as HR manager for a beauty brand. She made me love this job and pursue a career in this field.
During my studies, I started working part-time for a dating app before a stint in streetwear. I’ve always worked in human-sized companies and was able to acquire HR skills and an expertise on subjects that are very close to my heart like diversity and inclusion.
Was this specialization always a passion of yours?
No, it was a recent realization. I strive to be able to include individuals that traditionally face discriminations in a work environment: I want to give them as many opportunities as I can.
It makes so much sense when working in HR. Do you feel that CEOs are now pushing for diversity and inclusion?
Yes, it clearly comes from the top, I’ve always had the chance to work for progressive companies. Today, I work for a family-owned brand of premium street food. I’m in charge of hiring field and corporate teams while fostering inclusivity.
All of that with some exciting side projects! Can you tell me more about what you do with La Razzia ?
It started in 2017 with my partner: vintage pop-up stores selling fashion & accessories, home decor, furniture etc.
We’re trying to create a holistic experience to make people travel through the ages. We first opened in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, we were doing everything ourselves, thrifting and curating each of the pieces, while still having our day jobs! It really took off from the get go, even though we only communicated on Instagram. Thanks to word of mouth, we were able to have 600 visits over one weekend. People were super interested in our clothing selection with a very strong 70’s flair. Whether it was through the curation or the visual merchandising, we were able to transport people to this era. We did 2 pop-up stores in 2 years and our most successful one was located on quai de Jemmapes, on the canal St Martin.
We also partnered with young creators and particularly with a friend who lives in LA and specializes in vintage. He came over with all of his finds and we were able to sell them through La Razzia.
Now my partner mainly does set design for brands and pop-ups for department stores, as well as collection launches.
It’s amazing that you get to do all this together. By the way, we’re at his place right?
Yes, in this apartment in Belleville (Paris). I have a tiny studio in the 17th arrondissement but I spend a lot of time here, I love the light. My boyfriend kindly agreed to film this episode here :)
His apartment is very beautiful! And you, have you always lived around here?
I was born in the northern suburbs of Paris, a town called Saint Ouen l’Aumône. I’ve lived there until moving to Paris for college. I’ve always loved Paris and was always attracted to the city..
What was Paris for you being so close? Was did it represent?
For me it was a city of opportunities, a certain lifestyle.
It was clear to me from an early age that I wanted to live there. Very young I was going to Paris with my girlfriends, we were hanging out at Châtelet, in the Marais, a lot around République.
I moved during my Masters in HR for this opportunity for a dating site. It felt like the right time as my school and my company were there and I’ve lived there ever since - it’s already been 8 years.
Then I made a ton of friends, I used to go out clubbing a lot… But less now, even before lockdown!
What did the pandemic change for you? A lot of Parisians considered moving or even took the plunge: was it a question for you?
Not at all, I think I still have so much to do and discover here. On top of my vintage project with La Razzia where everything happens in Paris. I’ve never asked myself this question!
So what are the questions you ask yourself nowadays?
Mainly about La Razzia, how it can become more professional. How to reinvent it to offer something new. We’re working on it today and we hope we’ll be able to launch an innovative and cool concept very soon.