Plus, the ingenious duvet cover trick she learned while growing up in France.
Quintessential French style has long been synonymous with "effortlessly chic," and in the home decor world, casual-cool California style is the coveted look of the moment, with popular designers like Emily Henderson and Amber Lewis leading the charge. So when you combine the two easy-going aesthetics, the result is a sure-fire recipe for style success. The proof? Online home decor shop Happy French Gang. Founded in 2013 by Sandra Dejanovic, who moved from France to California in 2010, Happy French Gang calls itself a "combination of French vision with California creation." The result is an assortment of tie-dyed pillows, graphic tea towels, and the sweetest baby swaddles—all delivering laid-back style. To learn more about how Happy French Gang got its start and how growing up in France influenced the founder's sense of style, we asked Sandra about everything from the French duvet cover trick (it's genius!) to how travel inspires her designs.
How did growing up in France influence the design choices behind Happy French Gang?
One thing about living in France that is very different from life in the U.S. is how easy it is to travel between countries. In just two or three hours, I could be in an entirely new country with a very different culture, different architecture, food, music, traditions, etc. I got lucky as a kid and was able to travel with my parents and even more on my own as a young adult. Those travel experiences have always stuck with me. Meeting new people and experiencing different perspectives have always been sources of inspiration for me, so even now I take the opportunity to travel whenever I get it!
One of the things I remember doing as a kid was spending the summer months with my grandparents in Brittany—and going to the beach nearly every day. The memories of the blue ocean and the soft sand beneath my feet were largely the inspiration for the cloudy pillow collection, which still brings me back to those summer days on holiday as a kid.
Are there any little design tricks you picked up from growing up in France?
French interior styles have definitely played a large role in the way I think about my design process, especially when it comes to home goods. It’s often in very subtle ways, too.
For example, our duvet covers in France come with a bit of extra fabric at the bottom that we can slide under the mattress to prevent it from sliding off the bed at night. Our windows in France are different, too. French windows open two ways: to the side on hinges (like a door) and tilting forward. This way you can open up the top for a small breeze or open fully and clean both sides of the glass.
I think these types of useful design strategies have stayed with me. My first creation was the Zipillow, which—as its name suggests—allows you to zip pillows together into different configurations, depending on how you wish to use it. I may not have been thinking of French windows or duvet covers when I designed them, but I think growing up around those types of designs has definitely allowed them to make their way into my creative process!
To buy: $250 for Zipillow; happyfrenchgang.myshopify.com.
How did moving to California affect your designs and creative process?
I moved to California towards the end of 2010. Living in San Francisco has had a great impact on the way I’ve developed my designs. I love the rich color of the houses here and the natural beauty of the landscape—both have certainly both made their way into my design style.
California style has also impacted my tie-dye work. Tie-dye is a mainstay to the California style so it’s easy to find DIY tie-dye kits and the like here. That’s really given me freedom to experiment with my tie-dye collections and expand my creativity in new ways.
To buy: $120 for tie-dye pillow; happyfrenchgang.myshopify.com.
How do you create the designs featured on the pillows and tea towels?
All of my designs are the result of experimentation and creative exploration. Because so much of my process involves doing things by hand, I am always finding new ways to expand upon ideas I’ve explored in the past. If I see something that inspires me, I’ll often find ways to work it into the design process while I’m experimenting. I’ll try different colors, fabrics, foldings, water temperatures, etc. It can be a long process, but it is certainly rewarding!
I really enjoy the hands-on nature of the creative process, so all of my designs are hand-created, with the sole exception of some of my recent digital prints for a few of our tea towels which are designed digitally.
To buy: $24 per tea towel; happyfrenchgang.myshopify.com.