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PARIS — With the financial backing of U.S.-based private equity firm TA Associates, French contemporary brand Zadig & Voltaire is moving full-steam ahead with its global expansion. The label recently opened two locations on Paris’ most expensive avenue, the Champs-Elysées, where annual rents can hit 18,000 euros a square meter, or $23,544 at current exchange.
The 180-square-meter, or 1,937-square-foot, Zadig & Voltaire boutique at number 35, dedicated to accessories, opened in May. A 300-square-meter, or 3,229-square-foot, flagship carrying women’s, men’s and kids’ fashion as well as accessories launched last week on the Rond Point des Champs-Elysées, just across the street from the Avenue Montaigne.
“It was a unique opportunity. Good spaces at this location are very rare, so we went for it,” Zadig & Voltaire founder Thierry Gillier told WWD, adding that “the Champs-Elysées customer is essentially foreign, which makes the move a good way for us to become more visible internationally.”
Expansion is precisely what’s on Gillier’s mind. The entrepreneur has scheduled store openings at an almost weekly rate. A total of 40 new venues are planned through the end of 2013. “We are starting with Athens, then Milan will follow, then Istanbul, Canada, Korea, New York, and so on,” he said.
Viewing the speed of expansion, it’s tough to pinpoint the exact number of Zadig & Voltaire stores in the world at any given time. “We have approximately 220 doors, 100 of which are flagship stores,” said Gillier. “Our goal is to become a global brand with a strong image and an offering I would call le nouveau luxe, or new luxury.”
While the brand’s prices range from 70 euros, or $92, for a T-shirt to 550 euros, or $719, for a cashmere cardigan, Gillier said he was looking to Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani for inspiration. “Those two created an entirely new business model. From the clothes to the decor, they constructed a brand that is recognizable around the world, though essentially different,” he explained.
“But,” Gillier acknowledged, “that will need time. We are still a very young brand.
“The majority of foreigners are not yet familiar with our brand, which is why we are so keen on the Champs-Elysées,” he added. “The traffic there stands at 70 million visitors per year. It’s the best shop window for us.”
The Frenchman sold a 30 percent minority stake of Zadig & Voltaire to TA Associates last year. It’s a move, he said, that “brings [financial] comfort,” but does not change the brand’s direction. Gillier remains at the helm of the company he founded in 1997.