Interview with Frédéric Jastrzebski, CEO, Maison Tamboite
Tucked away in a quiet Paris courtyard, a revival is taking place. Luxury bicycle brand Maison Tamboite had closed down in the 1980s after decades of acclaim and an illustrious customer list including Marlene Dietrich, Sara Bernhardt, and Edith Piaf. After successful corporate careers, the great-grandsons of founder Léon Leynoud are now resurrecting the legacy and selling their famous custom-made bikes once more.
In a conversation with Tharawat Magazine Frédéric Jastrzebski, fourth-generation family member and current CEO of Maison Tamboite, explained the challenges in reviving a legacy, the ins and outs of bicycles as a product and possible handover to the next generation.
How did your career path lead you back to your family’s legacy?
I am part of the family business on my mother’s side, so I think I was not ‘programmed’ to take over the company. I went into finance as an international equity broker, and my brother is currently a lawyer at a major luxury brand in France.
But we both all felt the need to pay our dues. That’s a feeling that was transmitted through our family values. Even though the family business had closed down in the 80s, we still felt that sense of heritage. We wanted to restore Maison Tamboite to its former glory.
What were the greatest challenges you encountered?
We were the owners of a brand that had all but disappeared. Our family business was just a memory. The industry in Europe had been almost completely destroyed in the 70s and 80s when low-cost Asian bicycle brands entered the market.
Reading our great grandparents’ diaries we rediscovered the essence and the spirit of the Maison Tamboite brand and we wanted to revive that emotion and experience for customers. We wanted to go back to producing wonderful, beautiful bicycles that would just make people happy.
How did you go about doing this?
We began to formulate the vision using the legacy – the sense and the meaning of the brand and of the work of our ancestors. We had to think of every little detail.
Luxury is always the main aim; we thought long and hard about the new collections we wanted to design. After that, it was a case of really hard work – and it still is. Staying focused is paramount. But once you have a vision and the ability to express it and to share with others, finding the path that will take you there is the easy part.
How did you find the talent to help you undertake this?
You have to find the right people even though their talents might be hidden. The skills we needed had disappeared over 20 years ago. So it was about finding people with raw talent who had the ability to learn those skills. And we did, but mostly by chance!
Are you experiencing the same joy and fulfilment as in your previous professions?
My brother and I don’t talk about it much, but I think we’re both happier. Our wives are also involved, so we’re really back to being a family business.
Our cousins are also welcome to come to join us if they wish to in the future. The young generation is also getting more and more active. That feeling of belonging is there in all of us. We really feel like the custodians of the brand, keeping it safe for the next generation.