By  on October 29, 2007

PARIS — Cacharel, the French brand known for its spirited contemporary sportswear, has opened a new men’s shop here that house founder Jean Bousquet said is emblematic of his desire to rev up that segment of his business.

“Men’s has been asleep at Cacharel,” said Bousquet as he surveyed the store here at 21 Rue d’Uzes, on the Right Bank. “This store is part of our will to bring it back to life in a strong way.”

Earlier this fall, Bousquet inked a licensing deal with B2xX, the Jersey City trading company, to exclusively distribute its men’s, women’s and children’s apparel and accessories in the United States and Canada. He said men’s would be a strong priority in the American market, but not with stand-alone stores.

“We want to build all our business in the U.S., particularly the men’s,” said Bousquet. “We think there’s great potential for the brand in the U.S.”

In recent years, Cacharel, which has revenues of around $50 million, has had mixed success in energizing its youthful and colorful take on fashion. Earlier this year, for example, the house parted ways with its artistic directors of seven years, Suzanne Clements and Inacio Ribeiro, replacing them with 33-year-old Esther Angula. But Angula’s stint was short-lived. This month Cacharel hired Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto, best known for their print design and fabric development, as its new artistic directors.

Although Clements and Ribeiro’s first collections—which were essentially for women, though they also cast an eye on men’s—were warmly received, the house struggled with pricing and positioning, especially in overseas markets. Meanwhile, it restructured and tried to liven up its women’s business by opening two new stores here.

The new men’s store underscores Bousquet’s commitment to trying to grow the house, which he founded in 1962. The 2,000-square-foot, loft-like space is located on a street, not far from the Paris Bourse and the Drouot auction house, that has attracted new retail attention. “It’s kind of like Soho here,” said Bousquet. “It’s going to be the next hot location.”

Last year, men’s designer Stephane Plassier opened a store called Gus on the street, merchandised with fashion, motorcycles and books. Plassier consulted on the Cacharel store and also designed some pieces for the fall/winter ’08 collection.

Among Plassier’s contributions was the idea of making the store “easy and livable.” There will be, for instance, an espresso machine, Internet access and comfortable sofas. Artwork by Jean-Michel Alberola decorates the space. Plassier also insisted on the store using reusable, eco-friendly packaging.

Bousquet has named the store La Chemiserie or “shirt store,” in a nod to the first boutiques he opened in the 1960s that were popular in France for their inexpensive liberty-print shirts. But the new store also sells suits, ties and knitwear, all reasonably priced. Suits, for instance, sell for around 300 euros; shirts around 50 euros and sweaters around 60 euros.

“We wanted good quality at a good price,” said Bousquet. “We wanted the store to be easy and comfortable to make the shopping experience attractive.”

Bousquet said the store should do about 1 million euros in sales in its first year. “It’s a pilot,” he said. “This store is to get the image and merchandising right.”

Bousquet said his ambition is to open another 20 La Chemiserie stores in France in the upcoming years. “I’d like to have three to four in Paris alone,” he said.

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