PARIS — The commercial court in Boulogne-sur-Mer has given the green light to a historic takeover that sees four major lingerie players team together to ensure the future of Lucien Noyon, one of Calais’ last remaining lacemakers, which entered receivership last September.
Lingerie manufacturers Van de Velde, La Perla and Etam and industrial partner MAS Holdings will each own 20 percent of new company Noyon Dentelle, which incorporates all of Lucien Noyon’s equipment and stock and will offer continued employment to 170 associates.
“As a family group, a leader in the lingerie segment in France, we felt responsible for preserving the heritage and know-how of such a historic Calais lacemaker,” said Etam managing director Marie Schott.
“Noyon is one of the gems of the Calais region, it has a savoir faire that only exists in Calais, Caudry and via a few Leavers machines in Japan. We are also really proud to participate in maintaining jobs, because beyond the intellectual aspect, the employees, who are also part of the project, have dedicated their careers to this company.”
It is the first time lingerie market players have worked together in such a way to secure future supply of an endangered segment, and mirrors how luxury-goods players like Chanel and Hermès have been buying up their suppliers in recent years in order to ensure continued supply of French artisanal products.
Schott explained that she had been approached by company president Olivier Noyon, grandson of the company’s founder, and Henri-Philippe Durlet, its managing director, with their project to save the ailing firm.
Each of the partners will become administrators of the new firm, but will not have any operational role, preserving confidentiality for Noyon’s clients via a specially created charter.
The commercial court heard the case on Feb. 9 and rendered its judgement, officially liquidating the company to allow the takeover to go ahead under the newly created company, Noyon Dentelle, on Monday. There were no other potential offers for the firm.
Ten percent of the new company will be owned by current management and employees, 80 of whom have opted into the voluntary scheme, and the remaining 10 percent by PBO, Lucien Noyon’s current holding company controlled by the firm’s founding family.
Durlet becomes managing director of the new entity, the same position he held at Lucien Noyon, under an advisory board made up of its shareholders, including Olivier Noyon, who will no longer hold an operational role, but will also be an administrator.
The Hauts-de-France region, in which Calais is situated, has offered to support the takeover with a loan of up to one million euros, or $1.06 million at current exchange, subject to approval by its committee and the transfer of all Lucien Noyon employees to the new company.
According to Olivier Noyon, the fact that the partner companies have a direct link with the final consumer will allow the firm to become more dynamic in what are increasingly difficult times for France’s embattled lacemakers.
“We need to be closer to the market and to the final consumer,” he said. “It is a new chapter that will bring renewed dynamism to the company, open up new markets and preserve know-how,” he said, describing the moment as “bittersweet” as it marks the end of an era for the firm, founded in 1919, but ensures its continued existence.
His grandfather Lucien Noyon was himself the successor of Gustave Noyon and heir to a long line of lacemakers, manufacturers and mechanics.
While Van de Velde and La Perla are already major customers of Noyon in Calais, Schott explained, Etam, with its mass-market positioning, rarely used its products because of their high cost, but works with Noyon Lanka, its subsidiary in Sri Lanka.
For its 100th anniversary last year, however, Etam developed a body made with Noyon lace priced at 100 euros, or $106, at the top end of its offer. “It sold very well, so we think there is the potential to offer exceptional capsule lines offering this know-how to our customers in stores,” said Schott. “But it will never be the heart of our offer, because we make accessible lingerie.”
Last September, Noyon applied for the French equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, giving it six months to turn its business around, as reported. At the time, it had 240 employees. It was the second time in six years that the firm had filed for receivership.
Noyon operates three brands – the eponymous Noyon, specialized in lace for the lingerie industry, Darquer, which makes lace for lingerie, ready-to-wear and haute couture, and Alphalace, specialized in the latter two businesses.
Founded in 1840, Darquer is Calais’ oldest lacemaker, and was long the market leader. The new company aims to win back market share notably by boosting business in ready-to-wear and haute couture, Olivier Noyon said.
Times are difficult for France’s embattled lace industry, which at one point employed some 20,000 people. But there have been significant changes over recent months as market players rallied to try to perpetuate and develop the segment.
French lacemaker Sophie Hallette’s parent company Groupe Holesco, in which Chanel recently took a minority investment, last April won the bidding to acquire Codentel, an ailing industrial lacemaker that entered receivership in December 2015. Holesco also acquired 100 percent of fellow French firm Dentelles MC in August. Meanwhile, in March 2016, textile and apparel producer Hangzhou Yongsheng Group acquired Desseilles, saving it from closure.