by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2007-12-18
Born Caprice Bourret, the model turned businesswoman is best known just by her first name.
Aeriving in the UK from California in the mid 1990s, Caprice is admired by both men and women, not just for her beauty but also for her astute business brain and role model attributes.
Since becoming one of the most photographed Jewish people on the planet, Caprice has developed her career to include acting, presenting and proper ty investment.
But its her company ByCaprice Lingerie and Swimwear that has shown people that shes not just the pretty face of an advertising campaign - Caprice runs her own company and
has grown it to selling millions of knickers and bras across the planet.
Caprice is determined, motivated, honest and proud of her Jewish identity.
In an exclusive interview with JLifestyle, the Jewish magazine, Leslie Bunder talks to Caprice about what motivates her, business lessons she has learnt and the impor tance of being Jewish.
Tell us about Caprice the brand and the expansion of Caprice lingerie.
Well Caprice the brand started out as a licence deal with Debenhams in 2000 and then I bought back the licence and started my own company with my own money, so I own 100 per cent equity. I started it about two years ago but my product went on the shelf in February 2006, so weve been going for a year and a half.
Youve done a lot of expansion since the original deal with Debenhams.
In the last year and a half weve gone into Debenhams, Asos, Figleaves...weve just got
the Next account, Littlewoods, and about 15 independents. Im in South Africa, Im in
Germany and Im in America.
How did you get the motivation to go out on your own from the original distribution deal?
Well to be blunt I just saw what was going on with Debenhams and the kind of units we were shifting and the kind of money we were making and you thought You know what, I want to know about this, and my mum saying Its all about lingerie for you, you learn that business, you buy that licence back and you do it yourself. And she was right. On Littlewoods we have a 420 per cent increase, on Asos my candy stripe is the number one selling bra on the entire site, with Debenhams we have a 126 per cent increase. You know, were just doing unbelievably well.
When youre looking for areas of business expansion, what are you looking for and what
are you interested in?
Well the big mistake I made was that I went to too many countries at once because Im the one who does all the marketing, and theres only one of me. Its like, I went into South Africa, why did I go into South Africa? Because theres no competition, I knew I could go into that country and I could dominate, I could be almost like a monopoly. So that was why I chose South Africa. In Germany we went with the biggest catalogue company in the world, and statistics show that my photography sells. And in America, its one
of the biggest markets in the world and we got the Nordstrom account, so of course Im going to go with it!
Are you planning on doing any products for men?
No, the margins arent as good as products for women, but you know you can never predict the future. Right now I want to walk before I can run and so its all about the lingerie.
In terms of the clothing and looking at manufacturers did you look at Israel?
Well Israel is quite an interesting market for me and I have looked into that. I think theyll go with it because my price plan is so competitive, and also I could go to Israel and do a big marketing blitz where everyone will know me like I did in South Africa. They knew who I was there but they didnt really know me, so I went in there and I blitzed the place, hired a publicist, stayed there for three weeks, went on every talk show, did three covers and did about 100,000 interviews. I think I could do that in Israel as well so its definitely a market Im looking into.
What was the first business you ever got into?
Well Ive done property for the past seven or eight years I dont know if you want to call that a business, but Ive bought and sold properties and owned I dont know how many properties, but what I normally do is I buy a government repossession or I buy properties that are in their fi rst stage of development so you only pay 10 per cent and equity goes up within a year of construction and then thats when you get the mortgage. And then I hold on to it for a year and then I sell it.
So are you going to be the female equivalent of Donald Trump? You sound very clued up
in terms of running a business.....there is a lot more to Caprice the brand than just the modelling side of it!
Well thats not even a quarter of it! The only reason I do modelling is because my face
sells stuff. If my face didnt sell, trust me Id be getting a 21-year-old on board. I have no ego. Im only interested in the business. But my face still sells. As far as property is concerned its a very lucrative hobby of mine but Im not going to turn it into a huge business. I dont understand the Stock Market and I dont want to. Im just
interested in property.
What do you look for when youre working with people?
Honesty, loyalty, passion, knowledgeable, flexibility and persistence.
So how many people do you employ now then?
Well, all the time three, and then you sub-contract. I couldnt say to how many people really.
Would you say your best business decision so far was to go solo away from Debenhams?
My best business decision has been to start up my own company, definitely. This is longevity and its working.
What is the best business lesson youve learnt?
Oh, the mistakes Ive made. When I look at it in retrospect there have been a few mistakes made where I almost lost the business because they were quite big. But thank God I had my other business, and I was able to extract money from that to pay for my mess-ups with Caprice Lingerie. But you know what? They were lessons,and I learned, and they will never ever happen again. And now were dealing with much bigger numbers, so thank God we were able to recoup the company and learn a valuable lesson.
How do you deal with fame and what does fame mean to you?
Fame means I can get a reservation at a really posh restaurant at the last minute. Thats one of the advantages of fame. But Im not really led by the fame. Im just from a normal middle class family but because people know my name Im able to have a really successful business. Because at the end of the day lingerie and swim, and perfume or whatever has to battle its marketing, has to battle its awareness. And thank God that people know who I am.
Whats your favourite Jewish holiday and what does being Jewish mean to you?
Well its my identity and Im proud of it, and my favourite Jewish holiday is probably Yom Kippur because its the only day when everybody goes to shul nobody really goes for Shabbat or any other holiday. But Yom Kippur in particular, everybody is together. Im proud of my identity.
How is it going to shul? Does everybody stare?
Yeah, you get people looking over whispering, and then you get the girls checking out the boys, and the boys looking up at the girls.
Does Caprice wear a new outfit for the high holydays?
Oh yeah, I get out a very glam outfi t, of course I do.
Whats your family background?
Originally the family was Polish.
Have you done much research into your family history?
You know what? Not really. Something horrible happened with my grandmother on my mums
side and she just will not talk about it. We just dont know much. My dads side is Canadian origin and my mums side were in Poland then we went to Serbia, then America. Just bizarre. But we dont know much. My nana would never talk about it, and when we would start she would go on to another subject.
Have you encountered anti-Semitism in the UK?
No. Not at all.
How do you compare Jewish men in the UK to those in America?
Oh my God, you cannot compare, not at all! To me British men are much more educated, much more conservative, and theres much more more of a Jewish identity here than there is in America, which is what I like.
You did a photoshoot in Israel a few years back what was that like?
Oh, it was so gorgeous, and also because Im kosher, it was so great to be able to walk into a hotel and eat everything, I loved it!
So you dont eat meat out?
Never. Im not glatt but Im definitely kosher and I have been since I was a teenager.
So where do you eat kosher in London?
Well the houses that I go to for Shabbat, they normally have kosher meat. And then when I go back home of course my mom just loads me up on meat. I love it. I havent been to a lot of the kosher restaurants in London.
Youve been involved in a number of Jewish causes here in London also what makes you want to get involved with the community?
Well, its because its who I am, and I want to help with the community. I just have a
tremendous sense of identity and you have to start with your own.
For the full interview with Caprice, read the latest issue of JLifestyle, the Jewish magazine.