Meet Marie Remy the woman behind The French Workwear Company

— by Alyson Walsh


Marie Remy founder of The French Workwear Company. Photographs: Neil Mackenzie Matthews


My obsession with second-hand workwear led me to Marie Remy, 52, the founder of The French Workwear Company. She’s French, she loves workwear, she’s cool as.

Last year, The French Workwear Company had a pop-up in Shoreditch, so I popped along to check out the merch and wasn’t disappointed. Beaucoup de bleu. Everywhere. Both Monsieur TNMA and I bought jackets. This year, the Shoreditch pop-up is back, until Sunday 9 July; and so I had a quick chat with Marie about how she started her vintage workwear business:


Marie outside the Shoreditch pop-up



How did French Workwear come about?

I’ve always loved vintage clothes, since being a student in Paris. I’m a committed Green Party member and I’ve been a green candidate for my ward, so wearing vintage and second-hand for me is an extension of those commitments. It’s the greenest thing you can do, other than not buying anything. I would feel too guilty about contributing to more cotton in the world. There is so much of it. I also love the history side. The jackets all tell a story. The workers, the regional history, the connection between the factories, the variation between design details like dyes, pockets and stitching.

I worked in the music industry and then in the arts, in marketing. My husband Tjinder is a musician – in the band Cornershop –  and he’s a bit famous for his record collecting. We have spent a lot of time at French flea markets collecting vinyl, I’d always look at the secondhand clothes and quickly ended up with too many workwear jackets. So, in 2014, I started selling them in my spare time and then it kind of grew from there.

In 2017, I bought my domain name – I quietly launched online and then I did a pop-up in a lovely lifestyle vintage shop along Green Lanes in North London. It worked well, people could try everything on and so then I combined frequent pop-ups with the online shop. That became my business model.

The workwear comes from a range of. places in France. So, sometimes it’s buying from elderly people who are selling direct, sometimes from wholesalers. It’s a real mixture. Many are from the post-war years, when there was a lot of growth and the government would give workers protective clothes, to meet requirements. And they gave them too many! More than they could ever wear. But it’s getting harder and harder to source the pieces. The pool is shrinking.


Vintage French Workwear


And tell me about your designer collaborations

Sometimes tears and stains look cool, but sometimes the marks are too bad and I can’t sell the jackets. That was how I started my collaborations, working with the damaged goods to create something interesting. Most of the time a rip or stain works. It’s part of the history, and I like it. But sometimes it’s just doesn’t look good. Quite a few of my customers are artists. We just started talking. Then, Stewart Easton, followed by Ian Viggars, customised a few jackets for me. And now people approach me to ask if I’d like to collaborate. Basically, the only criteria is it has to be washable. And so they can use whatever technique they like, as long as it stays put. It’s been a nice way of keeping the business interesting.


On your website, you say French Workwear is suitable for men and women of all ages. Do you find that’s the case at your pop-ups? 

I’m always surprised, but I do. In many places I get older people who are very stylish, they’re very fashion-aware and they know what they’re looking for straight away. And then people who bring their parents or buy as a present for their dad, they might want a little help. I love finding the right jacket for people and then satisfied customers return with their daughter or their sister, for instance. At the Whitstable pop-up I’ve had people who come back every year, wearing the jacket they bought, which is lovely.



Why do you think why do you think people like them so much?

In France, they are something everyone would have worn. The jackets are mostly ‘Bugatti’ blue, due to the wider availability. The green colour is very rare but it is amazing. The green workwear jackets were worn by people who worked in parks, as gardeners, in nature, so they’re rarer to find.

People like to support slow fashion, and the connection to manual work that we have lost. They are wearing them now as a fashion piece, like a denim jacket. I’ve always said that the bleu du travail is the European version of a denim jacket. The blue is the same origin, you know, because it’s the cheapest dye they produced.

It’s like a backlash, being fed up of fast fashion. So, I think it’s wanting to reconnect to more authentic pieces that tell a story. Plus, the fact that it’s versatile and goes with so many outfits.  Some people wear them really oversized and guys often wear them over a t-shirt, at work. What’s so good about them is you can dress them up or down quite easily. Sometimes I wear one with a nice shirt or over a dress. Plus, the deep pockets are super handy!


My favourites are the really old faded jackets with repair work…

In terms of mending and repairing, some of the jackets have got original mending, which is lovely. And some of them I arrange to be repaired, so all the buttons have gone for instance, and they need replacing. I’ve learned the mending techniques, it’s been an interesting journey for me because I’ve never studied fashion. I didn’t know anything about retail, so I’ve had to learn it all.

In a way, in my career, I have always supported other people’s visions; when I worked with artistic directors, theatre directors, or within a marketing company. So this is the first time, for me professionally, where I’ve done my own thing.



Get yourself down to the Shoreditch pop-up. I’ll be going, in my jacket (hot weather-permitting).

The French Workwear Company is at 16 Calvert Avenue, London E2 7JD, from Tuesday 20 June – Sunday 9 July 2023 (11am – 6pm everyday except Sundays (11m – 5pm)).




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    My obsession with second-hand workwear led me to Marie Remy, 52, the founder of The French Workwear Company. She’s French, she loves workwear, she’s cool as.