Clergerie Spring 2020

Jérôme Espinos has been named president of French Legacy Group, a budding conglomerate that recently snapped up shoe brands Robert Clergerie, Avril Gau and Violet Tomas.

“These brands have been strategically chosen for their complementary positioning and product offerings,” said Espinos, a 30-year veteran in footwear and accessories who has worked for Polo Ralph Lauren, LVMH-owned footwear-maker Rossimoda and Charles Jourdan. He has also consulted for the likes of Lanvin and Proenza Schouler.

Citing market sources, WWD broke the news on July 9 that French Legacy Group (FLG) had acquired Clergerie from First Heritage Brands and fashion executive Jean-Marc Loubier. FLG put out a statement late Wednesday officially announcing its recent brand acquisitions and the executive appointment.

French Legacy Group is part of Switzerland-based Mirabaud Asset Management, which in December 2018 established a fund, Mirabaud Patrimoine Vivant, dedicated to “living heritage companies” in the luxury and lifestyle sector. Its investments include the shirt retailer Anne Fontaine, jeweler Mauboussin, activewear-maker Le Coq Sportif and the shoe brands Carel and Carvil.

FLG plans to leverage Clergerie’s key asset: its workshops in Romans-sur-Isère, and its 112 employees, as a platform for luxury footwear made in France.

“The Romans workshop will become a unique laboratory, open to other brands who wish to benefit from an outstanding technological tool that combines tradition, innovation and sustainable development,” said Espinos, who was born in the Romans region in southeast France.

FLG said it expects to reach 50 million euros in revenues in a little over five years, partly via acquisitions, and to broaden its activity to men’s collections and leather goods.

The Violet Tomas brand, founded in 2017, is known for its around-the-clock 5.5-cm heels, while Avril Gau founded her signature brand in 2002 after working for the likes of Clergerie, Chanel and Loewe.

“We have been chosen these brands for their very complementary positioning. The products are innovative and daring and have a high capacity to attract and build a new generation of customers,” said Espinos, who will be working with all three labels to grow their retail footprint across both digital and physical channels.

“Omnicanality is the key word to grow the business. Our goal is to build a strong digital marketing team to better develop and reinforce the ongoing conversation between the brand and the customer,” he added, pointing to the importance staying customer-centric and exploring new ways of delivering collections that serve the client first.

“Our approach to merchandizing will certainly be different. We need to increase newness and build client interest, so our delivery timing and design process will be changing too. We are at an interesting and critical point where we have the opportunity to question ourselves and understand how we can build the future to be as efficient and coherent as possible.”

FLG said it is aiming to internationalize its French footwear, with 60 percent of revenues stemming from its own retail network and the balance from partnerships with leading retailers, alongside a digital-focused strategy.

The group also plans to “broaden its scope of activity” to men’s collections and leathers goods.

“Our goal is to promote the skills and heritage of the footwear and leather goods industry,” said Espinos.

Under Loubier and First Heritage Brands, Clergerie made important inroads in the U.S. market, established a strong e-commerce business, and began making strides in the linchpin Asian market.

Clergerie’s original innovation — interpreting masculine shoes for women — is in line with trends toward flatter, more comfortable shoes.

Partners in Mirabaud’s private equity business include Renaud Dutreil, former French minister of small and medium-sized businesses and former chairman of LVMH North America, and David Wertheimer, son of Gérard Wertheimer, one of the owners of Chanel.

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