PARIS — Three years after the start of its remodeling, Le Bon Marché has finally unveiled its new men’s floor, spread across the historic building’s basement, next to the wine cellar.
This story first appeared in the November 6, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“The neighborhood itself has been under construction, and it is essential for us to stay on top of this evolution,” said Patrice Wagner, chairman and chief executive officer of Le Bon Marché, referring to the ongoing renovations of the Lutetia hotel, which sits next door, as well as the new development of high-end real estate in the retailer’s backyard that is expected to attract a fleet of affluent shoppers to the store.
In a walk-through of the new floor on Wednesday, Wagner said that, unlike many department stores, 75 percent of Le Bon Marché’s assortments are handpicked by its buyers, instead of being provided by the brands themselves. “The products need to be in line with our identity,” which is Parisian, chic and essentially Left Bank, he specified.
Among the new floor’s most outstanding features is a selection of exclusive designs done in collaboration with a broad range of designers. They currently account for 40 percent of the total offer.
Throughout the floor, mannequins sport unique silhouettes. There is a printed sweatshirt by Raf Simons; a checkered gray suit jacket with matching Bermuda shorts from Thom Browne, who is slated to show off his quirky universe in a special collaboration with the department store in February; and newcomer brand OAMC’s ubermodern take on the parka, which melds the French brand’s expertise in technical fabrics with cutting-edge design.
In addition, some two dozen men’s labels — Sacai, Want Les Essentiels de la Vie, Beams, Haider Ackermann and Cuisse de Grenouille, among others — are new this season.
According to Wagner, customers currently spend 168 euros, or about $211 at current exchange, a purchase.
“But it’s not just about product — it’s about service,” said Maud Tarena, the retailer’s men’s wear director, pointing to the barbershop as an example. “It has gotten so hard to get a seat, we decided to double the size,” she said. The enlarged space is to open in January.
Separately, a semibespoke service — or “demi-mesure,” as the French call it — has been added, with Ermenegildo Zegna, Scabal and Dior bearing the torch. Balthazar, Le Bon Marché’s in-house men’s wear label, will soon follow with a systematically expanded offering.
“Men’s, in general, has seen significant growth since it moved into the basement — up between 5 percent to 10 percent year-on-year,” disclosed Tarena, citing Balthazar, designer clothing and shoes as key drivers. “Other segments, such as contemporary and sportswear, have been tougher to sell, but that is precisely why we have set out to rejuvenate our offer in these categories.”
Her strategy relies on three principal pillars: denim, sneakers and pop-ups.
Currently occupied by up-and-coming French brand Officine Generale and its marriage of modern tailoring and custom-made fabrics, the pop-up space is slated to host a revolving cast of under-the-radar labels, including Bleu de Paname in February, Band of Outsiders in April and Ron Herman in May.
Ron Herman is also likely to add juice to the new denim corner, which includes a made-to-measure service by 3×1 that boasts the New York-based premium denim maker’s large selection of weaves.
In the shoe department, which carries Want Les Essentiels de la Vie’s new sneaker line among other exclusives, shoppers will be able to customize their footwear as part of a new service due to launch in time for the holiday season.
Building on the idea that men tend to gravitate to an all-in-one destination and hoping to attract a wider demographic, Le Bon Marché has upped its game in the lifestyle department with its so-called fantasy gallery, which features everything a man might need to get him through the day, from a pair of Marshall headphones and an iPad case designed by Ora Ïto to an exclusive collection of bracelets by Miansai.