2012 July 19
From The Daily Dan: Cools Concept
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(NEW YORK) Who’s the chicest summer neighbor in the Conscience Point ‘hood—and a Hamptons newbie, to boot? Dashing Parisian native Olivier van Themsche, a serial entrepreneur with a past that includes an electronic music label, video game development, and a hearty dose of party planning. At present, it’s all about The Cools, van Themsche’s latest venture that’s like a combo of eBay, Tumblr, and Etsy, complete with a fashion-centric set of financers and “ambassadors” already on board.
BY ALEXANDRA ILYASHOV
The Cools: explain, please!
It’s a social network for style: you can buy and sell your stuff, and you “follow” profiles that sound cool—say, a designer, vintage store, or artist. Essentially, you can almost create your own lifestyle magazine.
How did the concept come to fruition?
When I was living in Paris, my friends were always wearing these great things, and I couldn’t understand how they could afford them. Turns out, they were buying everything on eBay! Nobody was in love with the website, though. I thought people could sell their stuff in a more creative way, with much more content and depth.
It’s also a bit Tumblr-esque.
eBay and Tumblr are two amazing successes, so how could I be bothered by these comparisons? We’re also sort of like a social version of Etsy.This is your first summer in Southampton. Welcome!I visited maybe 30 houses, and I just loved this part of Southampton—Conscience Point—because it’s so close to the bay. And the marina, too! Friends can pick me up by boat. It’s really quiet because of all the reserves in the area. I think it’s the perfect Hamptons location, but I shouldn’t say that to anyone because I want to keep that secret!
What are your other Hamptons haunts?
Ruschmeyer’s—I love Phil [Winser] and Ben [Towill], the chefs. They’re two amazing English guys—they’re like my soul mates! Also, I’m a big fan of The Standard Sunset Beach; that’s my spot. I go to a lot of barbeques at friends’ houses—it’s a European crowd, whether they’re English, French, Spanish…I’m still not really familiar with the American Hamptons crowd. I love cooking, though I’m just getting into grilling now. What’s your ideal Hamptons soirée? A dinner on the beach with a long, long table of, like, 100 people—with a really nice cotton tablecloth and proper settings. The dress code would be formal on top, bathing suits on the bottom.
What’s the French equivalent of the Hamptons?
My family had an 11th century castle an hour outside of Paris. My mom bought it when it was in ruins and she redid everything. It took her 10 years—so we stayed in a trailer in front of the house for a while whenever we’d visit. When there was finally water and electricity, it became my getaway.
Lovely! Predating your recent Hamptons debut, what’d you do before The Cools?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since forever! My family seems to consist of only entrepreneurs. When I was 16, I started to organize parties for my high school; by the time I was 18, I was organizing parties for around 2,000. I went to Oxford, and while I was there I created an electronic music label. We were producing vinyl records and selling limited runs of 2,000 to 3,000 copies each.
What happened after the music business?
I developed a video game development studio, which grew into a 100-person company. In 2001, the video game market crashed in France and we had to close the company. It was super tough; I was only 25 or 26-years-old. I had to tell 100 people that they didn’t have jobs anymore.
Were you devastated?
Well, we were really close to being a really big success. Sometimes I think, thank God, maybe—it seems tough to be really successful when you’re too young. What do you do after that kind of success?
What did you end up doing?
I moved to the countryside of Paris, went back to Paris six months later, and got into fashion. I worked for a French designer to make some extra money, and I helped friends throw events and organize parties. I managed a few places and then even owned a few restaurants and clubs.
How did you end up in New York?
The Cools was was already an idea, but initially, I took an eight-week class at the New York Film Academy. It was really difficult for me because it was in English! Then I worked in finance for a little bit. I was working with some friends, but it was just a side project. During my first two years in New York, I went back and forth to Paris every week or two.
How was your very first NYC party?
It was my housewarming party! I’d been in the city for three months, and, like, 500 people showed up. People queued up outside my door in the West Village like it was a bar or club. That night was pretty insane! Someone even stole the iPod…while it played during the party.
Have you personally sold stuff on the site so far?
Yes! Mostly furniture, though the site has many fashion items. I sold my bike, my chairs, a lamp…I also have to list many more of my things this month. So get ready!
I’ve bought many things, like a pair of practically-never-used Berluti shoes. Perfect!
Is there an app for The Cools?
Not yet, but we’ll have one by September. We want to focus our efforts on the site so it’s meaningful and delivers a lot to our users.
Who should jump on The Cools bandwagon?
I’d love to see more people emptying their garages and listing great vintage stuff! The Hamptons is full of fantastic items that people just store. I’d love to see these pieces get a new life, again and again.
How big, and whereabouts, is The Cools currently?
We have around 10 people on staff, and we’ve moved to Soho on Spring and Broadway, in Startup Alley. It’s New York’s equivalent to Silicon Valley, and it stretches from Chinatown to Union Square. In our old space, we had a monthly party, ‘The New Geeks on the Block,’ downstairs from our office—since we moved, we’re thinking of doing ‘The New Geeks on the New Block.’
PLUS! COOL RIDE (FOR THE WEEKEND)!
What’s the story with that snazzy red convertible?
It’s a 1968 Firebird Pontiac—a fantastic piece of art with an electric roof. It’s unbelievable!
Where did you get it?
I love vintage cars: the lines, the sound, and the quality of all the parts are amazing. The problem is that vintage cars often fall apart, so you get stuck on the highway every two weeks. That’s why I decided to join the Classic Car Club in NYC.
How does it work?
They have a fleet of amazing old ladies and they take care of them as if they were their own grandmothers! Thus, all their cars are in perfect condition, and you rarely have problems. I can pick a different car every weekend, without the headache of parking the car during the week.
How can we join?
Drop into the garage on Hudson Street near Spring Street, or call them at (212) 229-2402 and say you’re friends with the Frenchie.
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