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Thrifting for everyone: Q&A with Jean-François Couture of Le Petit Couture
Jean-François Couture, owner of Quebec-based vintage and thrift shop Le Petit Couture, prides himself on offering a curated unisex clothing collection. Photo: Le Petit Couture

Thrifting for everyone: Q&A with Jean-François Couture of Le Petit Couture


The Quebec City–based seller behind Le Petit Couture talks thrifting, genderless clothing and his shift to secondhand

Thrifting is more than a way of life for Jean-François Couture, owner of Quebec City–based shop Le Petit Couture. It’s in his blood.

He started shopping for secondhand at the age of five, and, 31 years later, he’s still not bored of his hobby.

“I just want to go thrift every day,” he says. “But when you go every day, you bring home too many things versus the stuff you sell!”

To share his passion, Jean-François opened Le Petit Couture in 2020 as a side hustle to his career in advertising. He says he wants his cool finds to be enjoyed by all, which is why he’s marketed all of his clothing as unisex or genderless since day one.

In 2021, Jean-François decided to make his passion his priority and quit his full-time job. He now ships clothing, accessories, home decor items and collectibles across Canada from his webshop and Instagram account, and runs an Etsy shop to house some items available for shipping within North America.

A short-sleeve button-up shirt decorated with a vibrant floral pattern in red, yellow, and purple.
Jean-François sources all types of apparel to sell as part of his unisex offering at Le Petit Couture, but says tops and jackets tend to be the bestsellers. Photo: Le Petit Couture

He’s expanding beyond the internet, too. On Jun. 29, Le Petit Couture will join local sellers Le Salon des Frangines and Niche Vintage as part of their vintage collective at a new storefront at 213 Saint-Joseph Rue East in Quebec.

Jean-François will maintain a couple of clothing racks in the shop while still accepting shopping by appointment and web-shop pickups from a small studio space he rents in the city.

Here, Jean-François talks to The Vintage Seeker about the making of Le Petit Couture and how secondhand shopping changed his life.

Tell us how you got into thrifting.

Jean-François Couture: I started thrifting at a very young age with my father. We used to go to a huge yard sale on Sundays, with lots of shops outside. I really liked the community.

My father was trying to deal some stuff and bought some toys for us. I felt like they were unique. What I liked the most was being there early to get the best stuff. I didn’t have any money at five years old, but I always came back home with a surprise and my friends were really curious about where I found it and at which price.

A stack of six plastic cups printed with a palm tree, sunset, and sailboat striped yellow and red.
While some wear and tear is expected on vintage piece, Jean-François says he tries to source pieces in great overall condition, such as these vintage plastic drinking glasses. Photo: Le Petit Couture

What led you to start Le Petit Couture?

JFC: I had my career in advertising, communications and marketing for 12 years. I was able to see that I wasn’t at a good place in my life. The year before the pandemic, I was working in a web agency and that was when I realized it wasn’t enough for me.

I started my Instagram account only to show people the stuff I found for myself and I started to get dozens of followers, just for the pictures I posted. One day someone asked me if I was selling the lamps I’d posted. Then I realized I had a market and a potential to sell, so I started looking at my stuff and what I had in doubles.

I began to sell a little bit. Every day, I was posting pictures of stuff and people started buying it. Then the pandemic started and my job became quiet, so my boss asked me to take the government program offered [Canada Emergency Response Benefit].

I was off and started to think about this becoming my job. I built my website and kept going and posting stuff that I found. Last year in May [2021], I launched my website and I quit my job at the same time. I told my boss I wanted to be free and live my best life as a thrifter!

A purple zippered jacket with camel brown shoulders and collar.
Quebec-made brands, such as this Hors La Loi jacket, are a go-to for Jean-François. Photo: Le Petit Couture

What style of clothing do you gravitate toward?

JFC: Mostly ’80s and Millennial stuff. Colourful vintage, Louis Garneau and brands that were done in Canada and Quebec. I don’t get anything from people — I buy everything.

Every piece of clothes or objects I have, have been picked one by one by me and cleaned. My shop is one side of me, like the young little guy. Nostalgic ’80s. At my [home], I like antiques and mid-century.

For Le Petit Couture, I decided to create a unisex boutique because I was looking at people shopping at the thrift store and saw many people in the men’s section. I saw potential — most of my clients are women and shop for “men’s” clothes.

A vintage cash register that reads "no sale" topped with a brown cat figurine in front of a clothing rack.
Jean-François rents a small studio space near his home in Quebec’s Maizerets neighbourhood, and is open Thursdays and Fridays to meet clients for web-shop pickups or shopping by appointment. He’ll also manage a rack at a new vintage collective with Niche Vintage and Les Salon des Frangines in Saint-Roch, the city’s main shopping district. Photo: Le Petit Couture

What is the importance of unisex or genderless fashion to you?

JFC: I try to be inclusive in my store and make sure that people don’t think they don’t belong to my boutique or that they won’t find anything. I’ve tried to have more plus size, too.

People are really happy to come shop and the inventory is all together, so you don’t feel like you have only a little section for you. I want customers to feel welcome.

In your early adulthood, you spent a lot of time shopping at big-box stores. What did the shift to secondhand look like for you?

JFC: I had my phase, I went to IKEA. And I just realized it was cheap. You’d have to move to another place and it doesn't follow with you. I decided to change my furniture for used or vintage.

The clothes came after — maybe two years ago. I was working with a girl who is now my friend and we went on our lunch break to Value Village and we started shopping. Now I can say that almost 90 per cent of my wardrobe is vintage or used, so I really made a big switch.

I don’t want to go to big stores and malls anymore. I don’t feel comfortable with the price and how the clothing is made. I’m more conscious about everything, like countries that are underpaying people to create clothes.

I try not to have [fast-fashion] brands like Zara in my store — I try to have mostly vintage, and some thrifted pieces that are really nice.

Bright red, blue, and yellow plastic toy train pulling a cage containing a lion, bear, and monkey.
Vintage Fisher-Price pieces are popular with collectors and parents alike, says Jean-François. Photo: Le Petit Couture

Is there anything that you personally collect for yourself?

JFC: I try to be really minimalist at my place, but I like so many things! I’m in a mid-century phase, but I like to mix with antiques and old books. For my shop, I’m in a phase of vintage toys, vintage Fisher-Price, nostalgic things. And my community really likes it. I get many likes on my posts and many new followers that are moms.

What are your goals for your business over the next year?

JFC: I’m part of a new collective in Quebec with Le Salon des Frangines and Niche Vintage opening June 29. Le Petit Couture will have two racks and about 100 items there. I’ll be onsite there once or twice a week and still keep my studio open on Thursdays and Fridays [for web-shop pickups and appointment shopping].

Having a permanent rack is a nice way to earn some passive income.

JFC: Yes. I did lots of events last year with other shops and it’s really exhausting because you’re there for days and you talk to people — and I’m not a people person! When the lease is up on my space I may move to the country, be on the web and do three or four events a year.

T-shirt depicting extreme closeup of a pug's face.
“I really like T-shirts!” says Jean-François. Photo: Le Petit Couture

How have you noticed your social media engagement changing now that you’re a couple of years in?

JFC: Reels and TikToks are a lot of work if you want to do them well. I try to do Reels but it's not a passion, it’s for engagement. I've tried to do giveaways and collabs because Instagram is the main place I sell. Sometimes, even if I have 5,000 followers, I get like 200 views a day. You never know if you’re going to get thousands or only 200.

I recently created an Etsy shop too to sell some things that are most valuable, because my local customers won’t pay [collector prices]. That’s another place to get views and traffic and open up to potential customers.

What’s been the best thing you’ve ever found?

JFC: A Murano mushroom lamp. I was looking for it for two years and I finally found it last year. I almost cried because I really wanted it and the people around me had all found one. I was like, “Man, I’m thrifting almost every day and I don’t see it!”

Most of my furniture was free too, because I found them [on roadsides]. They’re mid-century with very good potential. I still get surprises every time I thrift. I’m not even tired of thrifting; it’s always a new day. I would thrift every day of the week for like, eight hours a day, if I could.

A vintage toy record player made of orange and tan plastic.
Vintage Fisher-Price record player. Photo: Le Petit Couture

What’s the reselling scene like in Quebec City?

JFC: I don’t go to Value Village anymore. I prefer to go further with my car, maybe an hour’s drive. It’s more quiet and there's no competition.

But I’m lucky because in Quebec City, there are not that many resellers — but if you go to Montreal, it’s crazy. Here, most of the resellers are my friends and we do events together. We all have our own styles so we thrift together.

Where do you like to shop?

JFC: For myself, I like to go to yard sales and underground places, like church basements. The crazy places are my favourite places — where it’s hoarder to the ceiling. I like it when you have to find the good stuff. It’s not up front.

What is one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting your shop?

JFC: Trust the process. Do not work 24 hours a day. Because when I started, I was really anxious if my store was going to work. After I launched my website, I was really tired but I was still working because you want people to know you exist.

But you realize you haven’t seen anyone in weeks and months. It was COVID, so it was kind of okay for me. But still, I started my business to have a great life and to travel. Now I’m more aware of my time and what I want to do.

Jean-François Couture, Founder, Le Petit Couture

Quebec, QC



This interview has been condensed and edited.

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