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Photo credit Matt Borkowski
Interview

Clémence Polès

01.02.18

When I first me Clémence Polès over coffee in Greenpoint, I liked her immediately. Her easygoing manner is ironically electric, and I was drawn to her words, her point of view, and her recommendations. The South of France-born, Dubai-raised, London-educated Poles has spent enough time in enough places to know what people want to know about a new place. She launched her recommendations-based website for women, Passerbuys, in 2015. Poles seeks out unique and qualified women like author Stephanie Danler, Refinery29 fashion writer Alyssa Coscarelli, and photographer Daryl Oh to get their recommendations of where to eat, drink, and hang in their neighborhoods. In addition to Passerbuys being a special collection of guides of the most interesting places in the world, Poles has grown the brand to include panels, pop up shops, and most recently a holiday market.

Interview

Where are you from? How did you end up in New York?

I’m from the south of France but I primarily grew up in Dubai. I went to King’s College in London and was there for almost 5 years but I couldn’t click with the culture – I actually deeply disliked living there. Having idolized NYC through sitcoms and films made it a no-brainer to finally make the move.

What were you doing before Passerbuys became your main gig?

I experimented with a lot of different jobs, I was a junior planner at an advertising agency, a music promoter, I worked in retail, worked in restaurants, worked in film production, worked in a tech start-up and most recently in web design. I wouldn’t say Passerbuys is my main gig just yet, but I’m definitely working towards that. Going freelance earlier this year was the best decision I could have done – yes it’s scary and so much more work – but it really gives me that flexibility to do what I love most which I’ve stuffed into Passerbuys.

Why did you launch a recommendations-based site?

I moved to NYC not knowing anyone and relying on websites like Yelp or Timeout. While those resources can be helpful, I didn’t feel like it related to my interests and taste – the recommendations were always editor based and so I thought it would be interesting to go about it another way, and find patterns in recommendations and sharing them. For example, instead of telling you, you gotta read Just Kids by Patti Smith because I thought it was amazing, I can say, well, there are over 30 women on Passerbuys who recommend that book – take it or leave it.

What was missing for you from sites and blogs that already provide this?

I guess I answer this a little bit in the previous question, but as I woman I find myself seeking different types of resources than my male friends might, so focusing solely on recommendations for women by women was a way to stand out.

How do you decide who to tap for their suggestions?

Honestly, it’s very intuitive. I’ll just stop someone at the subway that I’m curious about, or sometimes someone that I profile will recommend their friend. Just the other day I asked my Lyft driver if I could feature them!

Who has given you the most unexpected feature?

That’s a tough one as I come in with zero expectations or knowledge of the person so it’s always a discovery. There was a woman I profiled that shared all her favorite sex toys, listing the pros and cons, I guess I didn’t expect that – that was fun 🙂

Where do you see Passerbuys in 5 years? 10 years?

I see it becoming this platform where you can find resources and recommendations all around the world and not just metropolitan areas. A place that can help you navigate your life be it to learn how to enter a specific industry or to find the best moisturizer.

Talk to me about your personal style- are you a uniform-type of woman?

With age I find myself becoming more of a uniform type, there just isn’t enough time in the day. In the past, I would stress out so much about what outfit to wear that not only would I waste hours on deciding, but I’d end up being in a bad mood. So in the last couple of years, I would really seek pieces that flatter and that are timeless. A crisp white shirt, a good pair of jeans, loafers… that kind of thing.

Who are your preferred designers?

Lemaire, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Rejina Pyo, Laura Lombardi, Sophie Buhai.

How do you like to shop?

Online. There just aren’t that many shops that have extensive inventories… that said I do find myself preferring the in-store experience. Shopping for pants is the hardest thing. I just had to go through 3 different pant sizes at Emmerson Thorpe (Size 2 was the winner, haha).

To turn the tables a bit, what are your favorite places in Greenpoint to hang/dine/shop?

Sauvage or Ramona for drinks, Scalino for the best lunch deal ($11 pasta with a salad) and espresso, Mirth for vintage, Selemat Pagi for dinner, Maman for brunch.

What’s coming up for Passerbuys you can share with us?

Some new cities, and a lot of events 🙂

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