Dominique Simonneaux is French, and a former professional modern dancer. She moved to New York to follow an exchange student program with Merce Cunningham. When she became a mother, she started a children’s line with her sister, a costume designer for the Opera and other famous theater/circus/dance companies. A few years later, Dominique had the opportunity to open a store that she named her children’s clothing line, Les petits Chapelais.

Can you tell us how the story began for your store? I opened the boutique on September 11, 2001; a day no one can forget. I was pregnant with my third child. Thanks to the colorful lines I was selling and to the perseverance and warm welcome at the store, I survived the first year. Now the boutique has moved at 86 Thompson street, still in Soho, in front of a park and playground.
What brands do you carry? I sell my own line Les petits chapelais, Max et Lola, Zorra (both from Belgium), Petit Bateau, Mademoiselle a Soho, Pom d’api, Aster, Kickers (all from France), Paper wings (Australia), Eyespy Baby, Dagmar Daley, Oeuf, Kicokids, Lemlem, Tane Organics…many brands.
What is the main concept or idea about what you do? The collections I sell reflect a desire to offer children clothing that correspond to their way of grasping life, that allows them to move freely, to spin, to run, to jump, to breathe, to dance, to slide with a beautiful aesthetic! (without constraint or bad compromise). I am attached to the quality of workmanship and I also like to work with designers who are not mainstream, whose clothes reflect love and respect for the children.
What are the most successful lines in your store? The most successful are LPC, Eyespy and the Belgiums! LPC fits kids like a second nature, with simple, vibrant pattern and colors, playful witty great quality. Eyespy is unique and the choice of knit patterns, and the colors are extraordinary. Max and Lola is pure art, a signature in the boutique even if less affordable.
How is business in New York at the moment? Business is not predictable. Many small stores are closing due to the economy but also due to the high rents in the city.  Being a store owner here is very discouraging, it feels like a permanent battle. Then, many retailers are forced to change their selection when purchasing a collection to take less risk. The result is less interesting/original designers, more products mass produced in Asia, less quality.  Many big chains come to my store to shop for ideas, Gap, the Children’s store, Wall Disney, JCrew, H&M etc…How can small store owners survive the mega? The answer is probably the personal contact with the clients. When the crisis hit, it was quite hard and tense, but people just came to my store to buy things and make sure I was not going to shut down. I will always be thankful to my clients. That was a great solidarity gesture, showing that in the end, people love their local little independent stores.
How do you chose the collections for Les petits Chapelais? I visit trade shows (ENK, Bubble, Playtime, etc) but new designers or well established brands also contact me all the time.  After a few years running the store, it’s quite easy for me to I feel what belongs to it or not. It is like a gallery, sometimes I spot a trend, I bring in innovative lines, my clients love to find what they are used to see in the store, but they also like to be surprised. I try to stay away from the “trendy labels”. I have no time for reading magazines, shopping or looking at other stores, so I observe children (there are many around my store) and they inspire me, always!