PARIS — The French Riviera is getting a fresh shot of Aussie style beach glamour with the arrival of Zimmermann, an upscale Australian label that caters to an international jet-set crowd.
The move is an example of how high-end apparel brands with private equity backing — investors known for ambitious financial aims — are racing for global positions in order to secure relevance in a fast-shifting market.
With support from General Atlantic, the American private equity firm that has invested in Uber, Tory Burch and, recently, the fast-growing French contemporary label Sézane, Zimmermann is kicking off a splashy celebration of its first store in Europe Friday — in Saint Tropez. First on the agenda, a candlelit dinner at the laid-back beach restaurant Les Salins, followed by lunch and pool time at the Chateau Volterra, overlooking the sea, for a crowd of influencers.
“It’s been a long slow build, now the momentum is kicking in,” said the company’s chief operating officer Simone Zimmermann, who cofounded the label with her sister, Nicky Zimmermann, the designer.
The pair set their sights on the U.S. market around eight years ago, she added, opening stores in Los Angeles and New York. Since then, Zimmermann has set up shop in a handful of other locations, including the Hamptons, Miami, San Francisco and the Meatpacking District in N.Y.
The company, which is majority owned by the Zimmermann family, clocked 35 percent sales growth this year and expects to post 31 percent next year, with a bit more than half of revenues coming from the U.S. and Europe, with the other half coming from Asia and Australia. It does not make financial results public.
In Europe, the brand has been selling its elaborate designs — structured dresses with a bohemian flavor and sophisticated swimwear — for around two decades through wholesale channels. In the U.K., it has sold clothes through a partnership with Net-a-porter for a dozen years. It also has a presence in Selfridges, complete with a vintage glass top table with a rattan base and patches of soft gray carpeting over a light wood floor.
The brand built up its retail experience in its home market, where it counts around three dozen stores.
“There isn’t a big wholesale market in Australia, the population is small, so we don’t have brand partners like Sak’s and Barneys and Net-a-porter, those business don’t exist there — you have to open your own network,” said Simone Zimmermann.
While brands in Europe and the U.S. are rushing to bolster their presence in Asia, Zimmermann is looking to better establish itself in the West first.
“When we have the same kind of network we have in the U.S., then it will be like our third wave,” said Simone Zimmermann.
In 2019, the brand plans to open three more stores in the U.S. and three more in Europe.
The store in Saint Tropez is one of the smaller ones for the label, 645 square feet on the Rue François Sibilli, next to Gucci and across from Dior. The space is light and airy, with Palladiana stone tables and white, arched walls, and custom lights and metalwork from Studio McQualter, the Australian firm responsible for its other shops around the world.
The store will carry exclusive designs for men and women.
Nicky Zimmermann went to design school but learned how to sew from her mother — unsatisfied with local clothing offers, women of that generation in the family made their own clothing.
“They were very stylish, they would cut patterns on the ground, that’s how I grew up watching them whipping through fabric, and I loved it,” she recalled.
The new shop, which offers a bicycle delivery service to yachts parked in the seaside resort, meant to capture the clients from all over the globe.
“A lot of the south American girls, they’re in our Miami store in Bal Harbour and then they’re in Saint Tropez on holiday and there’s a real connectivity, the city where they shop and then with their holiday,” said Nicky Zimmermann.