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From Paris with Love: Djeco talks its past, present and future in a post-pandemic world

On the fringes of the Latin Quarter in the heart of Paris, Djeco’s headquarters stand steeped in a culture and history that not only runs through the European city, but the veins of a team of creatives and designers, and into the style, look, and feel of the toys and games that it has been developing for the past almost 70 years.

A business passed down from mother to son, Djeco’s story is as rich as the toys, games, and puzzles that it is renowned for developing, a portfolio that has seen the company establish itself as a favoured name among the world’s independent and major toy retailers alike.

Pioneered by Veronique Michel-Dales in 1954, Djeco emerged from the centre of France’s capital as one of only a handful of female-led businesses to thrive at a time notoriously difficult for women to get a foot in within the business world. Today, the company is led by her son,  Frédéric Michel-Dalès who has continued the ambition of delivering a new era of toys and games to France.

Here, ToyNews catches up with Roselyne Sage, Djeco’s CMO to talk about the company’s history and where it will be heading in a post-pandemic world, and what makes it such a popular brand among the independent retail scene.

Hi Roselyne, to kick us off, can we delve into what it is that Djeco brings to the toy industry? You’ve been championed by many in the industry and many indie retailers for bringing engaging and striking products to the toy scene. What is the Djeco ethos?

Creation is part of our DNA. We can’t help creating and innovating. We love to test new ideas, new products that will surprise, to think out of the box and to constantly create new and exciting products for children and families. Naturally all children are curious but this is something that needs to be cultivated. Djeco’s products help arouse their curiosity and imagination.

A Djeco product is a product with a touch of Art. We develop all our product with our global community of artists and illustrators.

What is the product development process like for you? Where does the signature look and style of the Djeco brand come from? 

With their hands in paint pots and their minds on fancy flights of imagination, over half of our in-house team works in product design. We focus on designing beautiful toys that we can be proud of. It’s so much more fun, and it works. Djeco cherishes this absolute freedom, which generates fun and the craziest ideas.

Like children, we dream up games and toys that everyone can enjoy, that will make you laugh, dream and explore. With our entourage of designers, illustrators and inventors, we research, experiment, share and compare… and from this bubbling mix are born toys bursting with 1001 colours.

Then it’s the turn of our graphic artists and their computers, who work long and hard to turn beautiful designs into beautiful products. The illustrators’ work is reviewed to make sure it perfectly matches the format of the games and meets manufacturing requirements. This is very meticulous and creative work. This is when those beautiful drawings are turned into playing cards, game boards, jigsaws and figurines.

The next stage is packaging design. The packaging is very important, because it does much more than keeping the toys safe. It also has to make the toys eye-catchy, explain what they are, be practical, pretty and appealing. Every detail and every square inch is carefully pondered and then pondered again.

Here at Djeco we know all about starting from a blank canvas, hitting the reset button, going back to the drawing board. It’s all part of the game. Art is a big part of our inspiration, but we also keep our eyes wide open and get inspiration from everyday life.

The unavoidable question – how has business been for you guys over the last few months? Have you seen a change the consumer mindset and a new appreciation for toys like Djeco’s?

For sure! This unprecedented period has affected our activity because many stores were closed, but also many of our retail partners have organised their online activity to sell more online or to introduce easy click and collect systems. Our art and crafts ranges were very high on demand to keep kids busy at home, as well as our board games and jigsaws. We realise that parents were really appreciative of the time they got to spend playing more with their kids, we have the feeling that this trend may continue.

How long has Djeco been on the toy scene and how have you maintained a strength of position over all of that time?

Djeco was founded in 1954 par Véronique Michel-Dalès, the mother of our current president Frédéric Michel-Dalès. Our teams continue to work in the historical buildings right at the heart of Paris. To maintain its position, Djeco has always been very attentive to the quality of its products, the company never compromises when it comes to the quality of everything it makes and the materials used. Innovation has also been key, to never put limits and be there when we are least expected to be!

Can you talk us through some of the most popular lines under the Djeco portfolio? What kind of trends are you seeing in the market at the moment, and how are you aligning yourselves with them?

Currently one of the strong consumer trends is the desire to purchase products that are made in natural materials, for example from wood or cardboard predominantly. The majority of our products are made using sustainable materials. In our new product development efforts, we are increasingly aware of this and are attentive to the choices that we make in our production processes.

How is the business positioned for the rest of the year and into 2021, what will be the biggest developments from you guys as everyone looks towards the next year?

We are optimistic for the end of year 2020, mostly because we feel that we have the right product range that will appeal to both parents and their children and also because our partners have welcomed our new lines with much enthusiasm.

We are currently working on our 2021 lines …..but you must wait to find out more about those 😉

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