It’s not exactly a midlife crisis, but Stephane Cremieux is ready for a life change.
This story first appeared in the March 31, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
And so, the son of French designer Daniel Cremieux is moving his family to New York City, looking for a design office in SoHo and setting out on a mission to expand the brand’s business in selected areas of the American market.
“I just turned 40,” Cremieux said in an interview earlier this week. “It was time for a change for me. I was actually thinking about it for the past five years. I love America and this is a good time for the market [despite the recession.] America is a great country for consumption and it’s very attractive when you compare it with Europe.”
The Cremieux label, whose brand is steeped in a European preppie sensibility, was launched in 1976 when it opened its first boutique in Saint-Tropez. Since then, it has grown to a $150 million business worldwide, Stephane Cremieux said, with distribution in France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Asia and the Middle East. Cremieux also operates four company-owned stores in France. Its largest customer is Dillard’s, which has had an exclusive on the collection in the U.S. for the past 11 years. The men’s collection is the store’s number-two volume label after Polo, according to Cremieux, and is carried in all doors. In January, it was expanded into women’s wear; luggage will begin shipping later this month, and a home collection will make its debut in May.
Starting this year, the brand will be wholesaled to other retailers in America for the first time, in locations that would not compete with Dillard’s. As part of the expansion, J. Press will host a party to celebrate the launch of the spring collection at its Madison Avenue store and online.
Cremieux said the goal is to sell the label’s men’s wear to 25 to 30 specialty stores within the next 18 months. Martin Miller, vice president of operations for Cremieux’s U.S. operation and the executive who brought the brand here, said the expansion is being done with Dillard’s blessing. “Dillard’s feels that the Cremieux label will gain in importance if sold in better men’s stores around the country where they don’t have stores,” he said. “And the opening of a design office in New York is also a positive because it brings the design team closer to the market.”
Some 80 percent of Cremieux’s business comes from its Blue Label line, the collection sold at Dillard’s. In Europe, the brand also offers an elevated Silver Label as well as a Luxury Collector vintage line, Cremieux said. These labels would also be available to interested U.S. stores as well, he said.
“But we will be very strict in terms of distribution,” he stressed. “We don’t want to sell everyplace. We’re running after positioning, not sales.” Retailers who carry the collection will be required to either install a boutique or at least devote some dedicated space to the brand. A $30,000 minimum order will also be required. “We don’t want to be the cherry on the cake,” Cremieux said.
The company would also consider a flagship in New York City sometime soon and once the office opens in June, will begin to search for a location.
Within a decade, he projected, the brand is expected to have sales of $500 million worldwide.