Meet three brothers who’ve cheerfully given their French fast-fashion heritage an American accent.
Don’t be fooled by the name. American Retro, a fledgling contemporary sportswear brand, is a fully French fashion-forward label.
“It’s a piece of the American dream with added French flair,” says David Pariente, the 26-year-old buying and production manager of the brand. He cofounded the label with his brothers, Gregory and Gary. And it truly is a family affair. Their father, Gérard Pariente, president of French fast-fashion behemoth Naf Naf, cofounded that label in the Seventies with his own brother, Patrick.
While dad may be one of France’s leading purveyors of ephemeral apparel, the junior set is keen to create looks with lasting appeal. And why not? “There has been too much democratization in fast fashion. Consumers today prefer to buy less quantity and focus on quality,” says David. Not that the new generation is critiquing their fast-fashion heritage. The trio all trained at Naf Naf before taking on their own brand. And hard work pays off with the Parientes.
The label recently opened its fourth and largest Paris location at 10 Rue du Vieux Colombier in the trendy Saint-Germain district. Sprawling over three floors, the 2,900-square-foot store carries ultrafeminine retro looks for women ranging from ethnic and hippy-chic styles to more Baroque fare.
“There was a huge demand from consumers to sell fashion that could be worn with jeans,” explains Gregory, 30. He should know. American Retro was initially founded in 2002 as a joint venture to distribute Joe’s Jeans in France. The first American Retro collection bowed a year later and quickly was followed by a freestanding store in the chic Saint-Honoré neighborhood.
“Jeans will always be a constant in the wardrobe. We built the American Retro concept around them,” says David, whose wife, Laure, also a Naf Naf alum, is the creative director for the brand. Next winter’s collection will boast a variety of Baroque-inspired knitwear pieces. A knit dress retailing for 120 euros, or about $155 at current exchange, is expected to be a bestseller. Also coming in July is its first men’s wear line, dubbed Man of Honors, and given an entire floor at the Saint-Germain location. The store also stocks select vintage items to underscore the retro vibe. Dead-stock shoes from the Seventies, such as stilettos by Sergio R, had fashionistas here heading to the stores in a hurry.
“We offer vintage looks from the fashion industry that are made industrially,” says David, who adds that sales for the brand increased 70 percent to 7 million euros, or about $9 million, from 4.8 million, or about $6.2 million, a year ago. Sold at a plethora of European retail doors, the label is being swept up by U.S. retailers, too, including Henri Bendel and Saks Fifth Avenue as well as Lisa Kline and Madison in Los Angeles. Contemporary fashion chain Anthropologie also is making space for an American Retro corner.
And if the family tree wasn’t already filled with fruit of the looms, the Parientes’ cousin, Priscilla Pariente, launched her own label, Manoush, two years ago. Her contemporary brand, which opened a store in the Marais district in Paris last April, offers stylish clothing with a more girlish attitude. Tops are 100 euros, or about $130, and blousons run 300 euros, or about $389. The label already counts 250 clients around the world, including Bloomingdale’s in New York and Bon Marché in Paris.
“Our family gave us the taste for the business,” says Gregory. “We grew up in it; we had a very early start.”
This article appeared in WWD FAST, a special publication of WWD available to subscribers.