Every month, we introduce you to an interesting woman living in Languedoc. Curious as we are, we like to find out why she lives in this beautiful region, what she does for a living and some of her Languedoc favourites. This month we would like you to meet Beverly Smart as Ramoneta of the Month. She runs La Trésorerie in Lagrasse, a cave of Aladin where you can find beautiful clothes (designed and made by herself), jewellery, and homeware.
Growing up in the UK, my mother passed on her passion for creating fashion. As of 14 years old, I started to make clothes for myself. However, as a tall girl, it wasn’t easy to find anything original to wear. So I decided to make my own wardrobe. In the end, I had a career in retail as an importer of fashion and back office administration for stores.
Besides creating and working in fashion, my other love is France. When I was 14 years old, and again at the age of 17, I spent some time in France. It was on that visit that I discovered an ‘éclair au chocolat’, and this heavenly cream-filled puff pastry made me want to live in France. Years later, 34 years ago now, I was looking for a different life. I wanted something I couldn’t find in the UK, although I didn’t know what that was. Therefore, at 28 years old, I left England to move to France for good. I didn’t do any research, nor did I know what to expect. I went on a gut feeling, initiated by an éclair au chocolat!
First time visiting the region
Coming to this region, and more specifically Lagrasse (1), was thanks to a picture. Somebody showed me a picture of Lagrasse from above, and from that moment I was sold. As I wanted to change my life, I decided to take the leap. So, I flew to Toulouse, hired a car, and stayed at the Bed & Breakfast in Lagrasse’s abbey (2), a service they offered at the time. Although I’m a down-to-earth person, it felt like I was coming home when driving the scenic route from Toulouse to Lagrasse. And now, years later, I still love the view over the abbey from my house. It makes me so happy every day. There is an energy here that attracts people.
Settling in Languedoc
After finding a place to live, I began building my life. Of course, I needed to earn money. Therefore, I started with what I knew doing: sewing. The first products I made were fabric hats and one dress design in different sizes and colours. And in 1992, when I was offered my first shop in Lagrasse, it started to grow. In the meantime, I met my husband, and we had two children. As of 2000, I really started building up my own style. Instead of people telling me what to make, I only made what I wanted to create and still do. Somehow, this made my business flourish.
Beverly Smart Design
My shop has found its home in the ‘Trésor Public’, or the public treasury. That is why I called it ‘La Trésorerie’ (3 & 4), and this is where I started the shop that I had always wanted. You will find three spaces, each representing a different speciality.
In the first part, I sell self-designed clothes, as well as ethical, recycled and upcycled jewellery and homeware. The clothes are all made by me. I recently calculated the number of pieces I have sewn, and since the opening of my shop, it has been 9,000 items of clothing! I also collect vintage fabrics, like linen sheets, from which I create new pieces. Sometimes I dye the fabric, and it makes me feel like I’m designing twice. Besides sewing, I also love to knit. The seven hours a day of knitting on top of my other activities show my passion for it. Every sewn and knitted garment I sell is unique and created with heart and soul. As I’m passionate about promoting handicrafts, I’m the opposite of fast fashion.
The second section of my shop displays recycled and upcycled jewellery. As my clothing designs are simple, they look perfect with some statement pieces to spice things up. That’s when I started to import homemade accessories from Africa. Every winter, I go to South Africa to personally select new items for my shop from independent makers. This is also how the homeware section developed, by meeting African artisans creating beautiful baskets and other accessories. Little by little, more products found their place in this third section of the shop. And now, half of the collection consists of clothes and the other half of jewellery and homeware. Lagrasse is a village that highly values crafts and is part of the ‘Villes et Métiers d’Art’ network. Therefore, all the products I sell are handmade in an ethical and fair-trade way.
Living in the South of France
Living for such a long time in France has made me French British. I’m fully immersed into the French life, and I can proudly say that I now have the French nationality. Getting my double nationality was not only about becoming French, it also taught me a lot about the country. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Here, I can live in a beautiful place and practice my skills and be correctly rewarded for it. Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. It’s a lot of work moving to another country, especially when you have to learn the language. But you’ll see that it’s worth every bit of struggle when you make the effort. My advice would be to be prepared to work hard and learn a lot, and you will have a great quality of life.
Best Languedoc wine
I’m a big fan of the wine that female winemaker Sophie Guiraudon from Clos de l’Anhel makes. Her organic wines are delicious, and many local restaurants have them on the menu. She came to the Corbières region over 20 years ago and strongly supports a sustainable working method respecting the unique Southern French nature.
I love the concept of La Perle Gruissanaise, and I think that everyone should go. It’s a wholesale seafood seller where you can have the best prawns and chips. Make sure to top it all off with a divine Nutella and Smarties crêpe. This might sound odd, but the chocolate melts in the pancake, making the smartie bits squash in your mouth. Do try!
Perfect day out in Languedoc
My perfect day in the area would be visiting a great brocante (6) on a Sunday. I love roaming around these second-hand markets on a lovely sunny day to find some beautiful vintage linen fabrics. After that, I’d like to have a delicious lunch outside with my friends.