PARIS — If shopping, as retailers have grown so fond of saying, has become yet another form of entertainment, then Cacharel president Jean Bousquet is plotting to move that concept into new territory.
In an interview, Bousquet said the family-controlled fashion house was working with British stage and movie set designer Jim Clay on a new concept for its Paris flagship that would take inspiration from sets Clay concocted for the recent Hugh Grant film “About a Boy.”
Meanwhile, Bousquet said Taiwanese artist Michael Lin, known for his vibrant color collages, had also been asked to contribute ideas for the store.
“I think that a shop today needs to change every three years,” commented Bousquet. “If it’s like a set, it can be quickly changed. I want the store to look like the loft in the film. It will be comfortable and like a house — a place that women will feel at ease.”
The store idea is but one of the moves Bousquet is taking to further reinvigorate the Cacharel name and homogenize its image.
By the end of the year, Cacharel will have closed all but one of its 20 wholly owned shops spread across France, Italy and Belgium. Bousquet called the decision the next stage of the revamp Cacharel initiated three years ago when it hired British design duo Inacio Ribeiro and Suzanne Clements to take the creative helm.
“Our identity, product and image have changed,” said Bousquet. “We have become more luxury. The shops we had no longer corresponded to our image, either by city or location. We now want to be very selective and very targeted.”
The only remaining shop, a 7,000-square-foot unit on Rue Bonaparte here, will be remodeled next year. Meanwhile, Bousquet said the company would slowly rebuild its network of stores by opening limited locations in select cities around the world, starting with New York in fall 2004.
Since the arrival of Clements and Ribeiro, Cacharel departed from its popular image, moving its product upscale and targeting high-end department stores and specialty retailers. Additionally, it garnered retail accounts in the U.S. for the first time in two decades, including Nordstrom, Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus.But America presented Cacharel a relatively fresh palette. Europe, on the other hand, where the brand had been the French equivalent of the Gap, required more radical repositioning.
“At first, we hesitated if we should be selective in Europe,” said Bousquet. “Now we know that we have to be very selective and that our image has to be compatible in every aspect of the business.”
Meanwhile, the executive said the company has signed eight new licensing contracts for products from lingerie to women’s footwear. The products, supervised by Clements and Ribeiro, will all bow at retail this spring selling season.
The move is contrary to the strategy most luxury ready-to-wear houses have adopted, cutting licenses to vertically integrate creation and production in-house.
“But we are a family-owned business,” said Bousquet. “We don’t have the means to do that. But we do have the ability to make sure that the licensed products are right.”
Cacharel’s new licensing partners include Iris for shoes; Logo for eyewear; SIL for lingerie and Carre Royal for leather goods.
Next year, Bousquet hopes to introduce a men’s collection that he describes “between the eccentricity of Paul Smith and the Japanese minimalism of Yohji Yamamoto.”
The house is also getting energetic with its beauty partner, L’Oréal. In October, it will launch a new women’s fragrance, Amor Amor, which Bousquet said would be followed every year with a new perfume.
Cacharel’s fragrance business in 2002 generated about $180.8 million in revenue, or 160 million euros. Last year, women’s rtw and children’s apparel, both produced in-house, brought in $39.6 million, or 35.1 million euros. Licenses accounted for about $45.2 million, or 40 million euros. Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at current exchange.
For 2003, Bousquet said sales would decline about 10 percent because of the poor economy and store closures.
Bousquet founded Cacharel in 1968 and owns 80 percent of its capital. Rothschild Bank owns the rest.
“I’m not interested in selling,” he said. “But I wouldn’t mind another investment partner on board to develop the brand more.”
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