PARIS — Following the opening of its first stand-alone store here last year, Officine Generale is moving full steam ahead with its international expansion plans, fueled by investment from Bpifrance.
This story first appeared in the April 21, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The French bank has taken a minority stake in the men’s wear label via Mode et Finance 2, a fund established in December 2014 to support young, up-and-coming brands, WWD has learned.
The amount of the deal was not disclosed, though Pierre Mahéo, creative director of Officine Generale, said it was “substantial.”
“Competition today is pretty stiff. You reach a point when achieving organic growth becomes very hard. You need a lot of cash, and I believe in retail. So the idea behind the investment was to build a team with a clean agenda and make sure that the company continues to grow,” Mahéo told WWD Monday.
The brand’s first step was to hire Vanessa Bonnefoux as financial director, a post which previously did not exist within the company. “She joins us from [Paris concept store] Merci, where she worked as financial director and also headed the women’s buying team. This means she is good at both — numbers and products,” said Mahéo, who launched the brand in 2012.
Next on the firm’s busy agenda: the U.S. market, where Mahéo plans to open his first freestanding unit by the fourth quarter. “The U.S. already accounts for more than one-third of our business, we have great sell-through in the region and the U.S. economy is recovering more quickly than in Europe. I just didn’t want to wait any longer,” Mahéo said.
New York will make the start, followed by another location on the West Coast in 2016. “If that goes well, we will look at other cities. The U.S. is a big country with many opportunities. I can well imagine developing a decent number of stores there,” he said.
Offering easy, high-quality design at an accessible price, Officine Generale has found a niche between luxury and high street, catering to “the guy next door” with a knack for fashion.
Though Mahéo sources his selvage denim in Japan and gets his cashmere from Italy, prices for a shirt start at 170 euros, or $183, while a pair of chinos goes for 150 euros, or $162, as the bulk of production has been moved to more affordable Portugal, without compromising quality.
In 2014, the label generated 1.9 million euros, or $2.5 million, at wholesale, twice as much as the year before.
The brand is sold at 90 points of sale, 34 of which are in the U.S., including Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman and Just One Eye. Roughly 30 percent of its business is done in Europe, and another 30 percent in the U.K. and Asia.
By year-end, Mahéo also plans to have an e-shop up and running.
“It’s going to be a two-step process. We will launch in Europe first, before expanding into the U.S.,” he said.