PARIS — Given the importance of proximity to market, manufacturing in France holds lots of potential, assorted speakers argued at a conference on the subject Wednesday.
Despite legal rigidity, recruitment challenges and confusion over labels, there are still lots of opportunities through export, diversification and digital, they agreed.
The talk coincided with the Made in France Première Vision trade show on April 7 and 8 at Carreau du Temple in Paris.
Speakers included Olivier Fournier, general manager of leather goods specialist Pôle Artisanal Hermès; Guillaume Gibault, Le Slip Français founder and president; Robert Rochefort, sociologist and economist; Corinne Champagner Katz, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property rights; Charles-Edouard Rancin, a supply-chain and competitively expert and Sophie Pineau, head of French manufacturer Getex.
“It is interesting to see companies localizing production at a time when delivering ‘just in time’ and consistency in quality are essential,” Rochefort said.
Hermès’s Fournier said allowing sufficient time is key. « Each craftsman signs the object he or she manufactures. It is proof of his or her commitment,” he said, noting that “on average, training people in the ateliers require 18 months.”
Pineau stressed the challenges when it comes to recruiting and the cost of training people. “France hasn’t a specific education,” she deplored. She said Getex has successfully diversified. “We now produce, for example, fabric roofs for Citroën cars. This now represents 10 percent of our sales and 12 jobs.”
Gibault stressed the necessity of marketing when it comes to “made in France.” The French underwear label that produces in Northern France recently raised around $30,000 via Kickstarter to fund a road trip stateside, called the “Very Love Trip” and get buzz ahead of its launch in the U.S. The company generates sales of around 1.5 million euros, or $1.62 million at current exchange, including 80 percent with e-commerce.
“French manufacturers need to make themselves available to young designers; a lot of them are willing to produce in France,” said Lyne Cohen-Solal, charged with creating a report on the fashion industry for the Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, who was among attendees.
Made in France Première Vision exists since 2003. This edition attracted 103 exhibitors and 2,500 visitors, a number on par with last year. While “Made in France” isn’t a label, there are two labels: Origine France Garantie, guaranteeing 60 percent of the product is made in France; and Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (or ‘Living Heritage Company,’) a mark of recognition of the French State, rewarding French firms for their manufacturing excellence, explained show manager Agnès Etame-Yescot.
Jean Normand, chief executive officer of Bocage Avenir Couture, a manufacturer specializing in fluid textiles such as organza, near Cholet in western France, was among exhibitors. He said the company now generates 25 percent of its sales with the U.K.. “There is a big potential [working for] British designers,” he said. The next edition of French Fashion Day showcasing French manufacturers who produce ready-to-wear and couture collections will take place on April 28 in London.