Dreaming in English
A Franco-Japanese romance blossoms into Malaga Cove’s L’Armoire Des Reves boutique.
In 1965, Bertil Hult—a dyslexic, 23-year-old Swede—launched EF (Education First) in the basement of his university dormitory in Lund. His premise that cultural immersion is the key to mastering a new language is now a global phenomenon, with more than 500 schools and offices in more than 52 countries.
In Redondo Beach, Bertil’s premise proved true for romance. At EF in Redondo Beach, Romain Dubus—a student from France—met Eri from Japan. They learned a common language (English), married and recently launched their own business, both online and in Palos Verdes Estates. L’Armoire Des Reves is a visual feast inside a boutique on a tiny, untraveled street in Malaga Cove.
Let’s start with where you both are from.
Eri Dubus: I was born in Osaka, Japan, but I’m Korean. My grandfather came to Japan during World War II for work. My father owned a shoe factory.
Romain Dubus: I am from Rouen in Normandy. I’m an architect. My father bought the castle I grew up in when it was in ruins. I grew up helping him rebuild castles and churches everywhere in France.
How did you meet at EF International in Redondo Beach?
RD: I came here to get my international license, but the school asked me to learn English because I did not speak a word. In January of 2008, I studied for three months at EF to learn English.
ED: I came to EF in April of 2008 to study for nine months. I came when Romain was leaving.
You were arriving and Romain was leaving. So what happened?
ED: I remember we met in a sitcom class and were watching How I Met Your Mother.
RD: For 15 days, we were in school together. We had a friend in common, then I had to go back to France for a month.
What was your first impression of Romain?
ED: He was just a French guy in a class. He told me he used to live in a castle, that he owned his first house at 14 and sold the house at 15, and had his own company when he was 17.
Eri, did you speak French?
Romain, did you speak Japanese?
RD: No. We don’t speak each other’s languages. Only English.
When did you get married?
ED: We got married in 2013 in Las Vegas.
Where in Las Vegas?
ED: In the chapel.
RD: She picked it!
ED: Because Britney Spears got married there.
Around the time she shaved her head?
RD: Yes. But that was for publicity.
How did your business L’Armoire Des Reves come about?
ED: When I lived in Japan, I always found that I wanted to buy things here.
RD: I always knew I would start a business—not in fashion. I had been working in the restaurant business at Crème de la Crepe when I was a student at EF and in Redondo, and ended up managing the restaurant in Hermosa, then in Long Beach. After that, I opened the Crème de la Crepe in Pasadena, then Manhattan Beach, then Culver City. I opened the fashion business for Eri.
Did you know how to open a business?
RD: It’s easy. I researched online and filled out paperwork. We had a student visa and needed to get an investor visa, which requires you to invest a minimum of $100,000 per person. That was the hard part. I had to work like crazy to make the money.
You are really brave.
RD: It’s fun. I don’t like to be bored.
How did you decide on the name L’Armoire Des Reves?
ED: I was thinking about a dream closet.
RD: And I was thinking in French.
ED: I liked the letters.
RD: The lawyer told us we had to pick a name, that day.
What’s your favorite part of the business?
ED: Researching the brands and going to shows in New York, Las Vegas, Paris or Italy. We carry over 100 brands.
Romain, what’s fun for you?
RD: Architecture. I keep buying new houses in France, then fixing them and selling them.
Like the French Property Brothers?
RD: Yes. Right now I have six houses. Everything was old, fixer-uppers. One is wood; the rest are stone. Five are in Normandy, and one is in Brittany.
Where are you both living?
ED: We are renting a house in Torrance.
RD: I have also been doing houses in Palos Verdes. My current customer is a lawyer in Rancho Palos Verdes who bought a $6 million house and tore it town. It was fun. I was the architect and hired the contractors. I will build a house in Palos Verdes. Business first, then house.
Do you own a house in Japan?
What about Las Vegas?
RD: We go every month and stay at a different hotel and just forget about the world.