François Hollande visiting the Petit Bateau factory.

FRENCH TOUCH:France is in fashion, or rather, France makes fashion,” said French president François Hollande during a visit to the Petit Bateau factory in Troyes on Thursday morning.

The Élysée Palace hours later on its web site published a video of Hollande addressing the firm’s employees — stacks of fabric in the background, and the town’s mayor, François Baroin, at his side — in a motivational speech centered on promoting the country’s textile industry, French savoir-faire and local production, while rejecting protectionism.

“We make this fashion with lots of help from talent from abroad; many foreign designers have moved over here and contributed to creating what we refer to as the French touch,” said Hollande, delivering what could be interpreted as a snipe at the anti-EU stance of certain presidential candidates out to take his seat. Or possibly a political figure based further afield.

“When I go on trips abroad, people talk to me about France’s technological prowess — referring to Airbus and the Rafale [fighter jets] that we sell, the boats and elaborate industrial machines — but they also speak about what differentiates France from the rest: the quality and beauty of its products, its fashion and gastronomy. You, too, belong to French culture. France is also known for the quality of its garments and fabrics, and they contribute to giving France a presence across the globe and creating desire,” said Hollande. “We must have confidence in the future, we have our place in the world, many countries want to buy French products. There is no need for commercial constraints, barriers and protectionism.”

François Hollande visiting the Petit Bateau factory.

François Hollande visiting the Petit Bateau factory.  © Présidence de la République

Addressing the challenges of the textile industry over the years, and the impact of offshoring, Hollande saluted Petit Bateau for having created a model that has done justice not only for the region in which it sits “but for the whole of France.”

“And the secret is the company’s history; you come from a long tradition, the textile industry was invented here,” he said.

“You have thrived in a fiercely competitive market…You chose to innovate and invest, employing the best technology out there, and investing heavily in training programs, which has allowed you to keep ahead of the game,” added Hollande. “But that’s not all, the innovation also shows in the conception of the products, and your technicians and designers create product that nobody else is capable of producing — not because they lack the materials, but because they don’t have the taste, the style and the touch of Petit Bateau.”

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