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New Owners Plot Courrèges’ Return

Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting are poised to relaunch the label this fall, starting with a new e-commerce site.

PARIS — Get ready for Courrèges 2.0.

New owners and co-presidents Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting, who bought the Space Age label from founders André and Coqueline Courrèges in January, are poised to relaunch it this fall, starting with a new e-commerce site scheduled to bow by mid-November.

It is the first step in rebuilding the house’s retail network, which once spanned 180 points of sale but is now reduced to a flagship in Paris, plus New York specialty store Jeffrey, which resumes carrying Courrèges this season.

“We would like to be present in a significant way in roughly eight countries within three years,” said Bungert, citing the U.S., Germany, Spain, Russia, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil and eventually China as priority markets.

The Web site, to be operated by French flash sale pioneer Vente-Privée.com, will offer updated versions of house classics including A-line dresses and vinyl cropped jackets, in addition to mint-condition items rescued from the company’s inventory of unsold merchandise — a potential treasure trove for vintage lovers.

To mark its 50th anniversary, Courrèges — best known for streamlined, geometric designs that ushered in the miniskirt — will produce its signature vinyl jacket in white, in a limited edition of 50 due to go on sale at Paris store Colette late this month.

Bungert and Torloting, who previously ran the French division of advertising agency Young & Rubicam, also plan to revive global licenses for categories ranging from eyewear to luggage and home furnishings.

They recently signed a five-year global perfume license with Lorience and plan to relaunch signatures scents Eau de Courrèges and Empreinte by Mother’s Day, which falls on June 3 in France next year.

At present, Courrèges has a licensing operation in Japan, which generates annual retail sales of around 160 million euros, or $215 million at current exchange. But total revenues are expected to total just 20 million euros in 2011, or $27 million, including royalties and sales.

“Objectively seen, there is a big gap between the small size of the company today and its huge notoriety,” said Torloting. “So the brand needs to regain its level. That’s going to take a few years, but it’s not a purely financial objective.”

In recent years, Coqueline Courrèges, who has been running the firm since her husband retired from fashion in the Nineties, has focused on preserving his heritage through books and exhibitions. Although the brand’s creative team continued to design collections, these were not manufactured or distributed.

That has changed. The in-house design team of seven is now working on new clothing designs, in addition to special projects with external talent. Marking the first step of this revival, Courrèges has collaborated with Evian on a limited-edition mineral water bottle that goes on sale in France in late October.

By mid-2012, the company expects to launch a watch, sneakers and perhaps even skin care.

“Very quickly, in our conversations with Coqueline, we understood that the scope of this brand was much broader than couture,” said Torloting. “The house as a whole has been conceived to design products rather than collections. That is a unique trait of this brand, and we want to capitalize on that.”