PARIS — There likely won’t be any iconic product launches or extravagant parties, but Sandro Homme is marking its 10th anniversary this year and has expansion plans that call for larger, coed stores.
“I am not really into celebrations,” said the label’s designer Ilan Chetrite, who added the men’s line of his parents’ budding apparel business a decade ago. It now sits in the SMCP Group alongside Paris brands Maje and Claudie Pierlot, controlled by the China-based Shandong Ruyi Group.
Chetrite, who relays his views firmly but with a soft-spoken demeanor, explained he has never been one to throw birthday parties.
“However, I thought it would be a bit selfish not to celebrate Sandro Homme’s 10 years because it’s a project, the work of a team, it’s a lot of energy and I would like to pay homage to the work that has been accomplished so far,” he added. “We’re having little celebrations, but nothing too ostentatious.”
Sandro turned to graphic artists at the agency Atelier Franck Durand to make posters for store windows in Paris that read, in French, “J’ai dix ans,” which means “I am 10 years old.” The statement is a nod to a song by French Eighties pop star Alain Souchon.
“We have a communication plan for social networks but we haven’t launched iconic products. We considered it but I think that 10 years is too early to say we’ve got iconic products and I don’t want to step into shoes of someone that I am not — yet,” said the designer.
The label plans to expand into coed stores, starting with France and other parts of Europe, and is progressively opening larger stores in the U.S. and China as well. The Chinese market is expected to continue to fuel growth in accessible luxury in the foreseeable future, with analysts from HSBC estimating consumption will grow more than 10 percent per year until 2020.
Later this week, the SMCP Group brand will close its Spring Street location in New York City, replacing it with a yearlong pop-up store at 79 Greene Street. The 2,400-square-foot store will carry clothing from both men’s and women’s lines, including clothing from a men’s capsule collection with Helly Hansen starting Sept. 11. Chetrite, who draws inspiration from the hip-hop French scene of the Nineties, noted the brand’s technical outerwear was popular with rap groups in France.
Another capsule collection with “The Muppet Show,” for women and children, will be launched on Sept. 25 and feature Kermit the Frog.
Thanks to their larger size, the new stores mean “no compromise” when it comes to space for both men’s and women’s clothing, noted SMCP chief executive officer Daniel Lalonde.
“Our strategy initially in Greater China was to bring Sandro Femme first and now we’ve reconverted and are building bigger stores,” explained Lalonde.
Lalonde, who describes the men’s line of Sandro as “urban chic, inspired by that urban chic man in Paris that plays throughout the world,” has big ambitions for the label.
“It’s a fragmented market [with] very few successful men’s brands, I’d say, in accessible luxury, so we think there’s a really big opportunity to build Sandro Men into a very large business,” he said.
Lalonde, who has run the company since 2014, increased the proportion of sales from outside its home market of France. Further boosting international expansion, Shandong Ruyi Group generated funds by listing SMCP on the French stock market after buying it from private equity firm KKR in 2016.
Sandro Homme has been expanding into accessories for the past couple of years, with wallets, bags and a range of shoes, including a large variety of sneakers. Revenues from accessories have been doubling each year, estimates Chetrite, and now account for around 8 percent of sales. But the category’s growing importance calls for larger stores.
“Our stores aren’t big enough to present everything well, because accessories are really like a separate line of work — with specific selling methods,” said Chetrite.
Chetrite joined Sandro, which only sold women’s clothing at the time, upon graduating from Paris-Dauphine University, a French institution that specializes in management and economics.
“I studied there because I knew I definitely didn’t want to wind up at Sandro — I didn’t want to work in ready-to-wear like my parents,” he said. His parents, Evelyne and Didier Chetrite, ran their business as a wholesale model, which was less to Chetrite’s liking because, “I grew up with brands.”
But just as he was finishing his studies, his parents decided to open their first store. “This is when I saw a nice adventure shaping up and I thought I would like to join it — at least I wanted to see what was happening,” he said.
For around a year and a half, Chetrite spent time learning about the different parts of the business.
“Sometimes I got bored — when you don’t have a clear mission, you can get pretty bored, and it’s awful,” recalled Chetrite, who said he had preferred doing things than spending time learning. “That’s when I suggested to my parents that I launch Sandro Homme.”
There weren’t many accessible luxury brands in France when he embarked on the project. “There was only Dior that did men’s lines, and Zara. But nothing between the two.”
Working at a buzzing Sandro store in the Marais district in Paris on the weekends, he had noticed women out shopping were often accompanied by men — brothers, cousins, husbands.
“And I thought there was an opportunity, men needed to be dressed, too… I wanted to bring something more to Sandro, I thought that would give it extra soul to be a brand that dressed men and women, like the multigender American brands that we didn’t have in France — that we still don’t have, by the way.”
With no formal training as a designer, Chetrite took on the process by imagining, then building an ideal wardrobe.
“I simply thought up the perfect wardrobe and then it was really a matter of working out how to build it — I set out to make a leather jacket with a friend who made leather jackets; I took a pair of jeans to redo the cut, adding this and taking off that; I tried to find the perfect shirt, affordable, with a clean line, fairly basic,” he explained matter-of-factly.
In the beginning, he relied on the production for the women’s line, which was challenging because it meant finding ways to get work done when teams weren’t busy with other projects.
Eventually, business developed and the line was able to hire its own teams and now operates separately, from the joint headquarters on Boulevard Haussmann in central Paris.
After testing the first collection in the women’s store in the Marais, the family opened three stores for the men’s line at once; Sandro Men now counts 213 points of sale around the world.
While the collections grew extensively over time, the label is currently concentrating on a more focused offer. “We prefer to offer slightly fewer things that are better studied, more focused and more efficient. I don’t want to fight all of the battles — I think today we know what we are,” Chetrite said.
In the past 10 years, Chetrite notes the biggest change is that people are in a hurry these days.
“They aren’t in the mood and they don’t have time; time is precious. People don’t take time and they don’t want to take time because of this screen,” he said, lifting up his cell phone as an example. “People believe everything is at a hand’s reach, that everything has to move at lightning speed — but the human brain can’t keep up.”