There are chin-strap expedition hats, and then there are chin-strap expedition hats with strong consumer engagement.
Simon Porte Jacquemus came up with the latter. His “bob Artichaut,” as it’s called on the brand’s e-store, was shifting at the rate of about 10,000 units a month over the summer.
“This became viral,” marveled Bastien Daguzan, chief executive officer of Paris-based Jacquemus, which is receiving the WWD Honor for Best-Performing Fashion Company, Small Cap. He said an enthusiastic embrace of the bucket-style hat by its “community,” which includes celebrities, influencers and countless young brand enthusiasts, fueled demand for the item.
Ditto for an array of other Jacquemus creations, headlined by the hit Chiquito handbag, the new Bambino model, and his crisp, lingerie-like fashions.
The designer’s vivid storytelling on Instagram, where he counts 5.1 million followers, is the not-so-secret sauce behind the company’s meteoric trajectory, with revenues more than doubling in 2021 to surpass 100 million euros and net profitability exceeding 30 percent of sales.
In an interview, Daguzan said the company is on track to double sales again in 2022, and it has a medium-term ambition of reaching 500 million euros in revenues by 2025.
So much for the commonly held belief that it’s well-nigh impossible for a young, independent designer to reach critical mass in a fashion landscape dominated by fast-growing luxury behemoths like Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Chanel, Gucci and Dior.
Jacquemus has done so by being something of a hybrid between a pure luxury player — accessories account for about 65 percent of revenues, ready-to-wear the balance — and a digitally native vertical brand.
Its online store generates about 40 percent of revenues, with wholesale accounting for the balance. It’s a ratio Daguzan intends to inverse, stressing that e-commerce excellence remains a linchpin strategy. “The main goal is to gain complete mastery over digital, to make the digital experience better everywhere we can, and to intensify this channel,” he said.
One month ago, Jacquemus dipped a toe into physical retail by opening a temporary boutique on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, which became instantly Instagrammable thanks to its most unusual feature: a giant popcorn machine that invites customers to serve themselves via an arcade-style claw.
Daguzan cited a “super good” response to the boutique, which often boasts lines longer than luxury neighbors like Dior, Gucci and Saint Laurent.
The executive characterized the pop-up as a way to showcase the brand in an “elevated” atmosphere, and glean insights about the brick-and-mortar channel. Already he noticed that “ready-to-wear is working better in this store than the online business.”
Resembling a walk-in-sculpture gallery in white and beige, the multilevel unit is also a forum to test high-end products. While the average selling price for Jacquemus handbags hovers around 600 euros, the brand has introduced models selling for north of 1,000 euros without much price resistance.
But don’t expect a big rollout of stores in the coming years. “The goal we have for retail is 10 percent of our revenues,” Daguzan said, noting this will mainly come by converting shops-in-shop from wholesale to leased operations. He envisions operating “up to five” freestanding stores at most by 2025, with the emphasis remaining online expansion.
At present, the Europe, Middle East and Africa region accounts for about half of the Jacquemus business, with the U.S. generating 35 percent and Asia about 15 percent. At present, Daguzan is focused on expansion in the Middle East territory.
As for product categories, he described “huge potential” in accessories, including footwear. “People are waiting for more Jacquemus objects, and maybe also sneakers in the menswear,” Daguzan said.
The brand recently unveiled a collaboration with Nike, citing such an enthusiastic consumer response the website crashed.
Daguzan came on board as full-time CEO in May after moonlighting as a consultant for Jacquemus while serving as general manager of Paco Rabanne fashion from 2017 to 2022.
Jacquemus previously acted as both creative director and CEO of his brand, known for sunny designs rooted in the lifestyle of his native Provence.
Daguzan said he became aware of the designer in 2011 when Jacquemus staged a guerrilla fashion show during the Vogue Fashion Night shopping event. The designer, then sporting shoulder-length hair, toured the giant street party on Avenue Montaigne with models dressed in his creations and hoisting a banner declaring, “Jacquemus en grève,” or “Jacquemus on strike.”
It got him the attention of a host of important fashion people, including Emmanuelle Alt, then editor in chief of Vogue Paris.
According to Daguzan, Jacquemus realized then that he needed to “create surprises all the time to be seen. He breaks the rules and because of that he has attention.”
Jacquemus is one of only a handful of fashion brands to stage see now, buy now fashion shows — and he often parades his designs amid beautiful natural locations: rolling lavender fields, a picture-perfect crop of wheat, an idyllic Hawaiian beach and the otherworldly salt dunes of France’s Camargue region. Even his more classical indoor fashion shows can break the internet: Recall Gigi Hadid’s viral hair flip at the fall 2020 show.
The designer also shares his personal travails and triumphs on the brand’s official Instagram account. For example, his wedding over the summer to longtime boyfriend Marco Maestri became a sensation, one post garnering 1.2 million likes. His dappled, blue-eyed dachshund Toutou appears frequently on the platform and risks becoming as famous as Karl Lagerfeld’s pampered feline Choupette.
Daguzan goes so far as to describe Jacquemus as something of a media company. “Each time we say something on Instagram, you have a queue on Avenue Montaigne,” he said. “And that is the way we work: We create surprises in order to make people dream about us.”
Editor’s Note: The winner of the WWD Honor for Best-Performing Fashion Company, Large Cap, is Hermès International.