Edith Keller – CEO Carlin International Group: Benoit Latron, you are Marketing director at Jules, a brand which has started a CSR strategy very affirmed since 2019. Who has been motor in that reflexion? The direction, the employees, or have you taken in account your clients’ expectations?
Benoit Latron – Marketing Director at Jules:
The starting point comes before everything from the market and the consumers. Since around 10 years, our markets have been suffering, the level of disruption is totally unedited; the closings, concentrations, brands’ divestitures have been accelerating. In the same time, we are assisting to the rise of a kind of hostility more and more stronger from the consumers and the public powers against fast fashion.
Such as many actors, our economic models have been shaken. But instead of settling cosmetic improvements, the Direction has wished settling a deep transformation of our model, taking in account all of the realities, convinced that only a radical change wilk assure the company perennity.
Benoit Latron – Marketing Director at Jules
The main conviction which has carried that transformation was the fact that we had the duty and the obligation to go out from a model that hasn’t moved in the last 20 years. The fashion industry is the second most pollutant industry in the world. We are producing more offers than there are demands. That’s why we have a lot of promotions and residual stocks, more than we can’t think about and so tremendous resources and destroyed values. We have re-opened that project of change around the 0 waste in total transparency with the teams and by associating them to the definition and the settlement of a new strategic plan.
This willingness from the Direction matched perfectly the teams’ expectations and aspirations so there was no difficulty to be approved, at the contrary.
E.K: What is it the most difficult by settling this CSR strategy?
B.L: Everything is difficult. We are facing a mountain. The most complicated is I think to change our constructions of collection, starting from the eco-conception to the selection of more sustainable materials, questioning our furnishers and supply areas, and this by preserving our economic balances. It is a huge work, but we moving fast.
For instance, we are collaborating today with 117 furnishers, who own their factories. In 2018, we used to have 200. That reduction allows us to have good partners in order to answer our clients’ expectations and our requirements (quality, reactivity) and to be able to focus our efforts of collaboration and partnerships to help them becoming more sustainable.
Another example, in three years we have gone from 0 to 35% of collections integrating eco-friendly materials. The target is 50% by 2022.
The everyday life is quite difficult sometimes. To stop sales all directions, not do the Black Friday, drastically reduce the weight of the unsold articles… We can sometimes be despondant when we see some of our competitors remain on old logistics with permanent sales, the 3rd good for free, the second at one euros, shops with 80% of their stocks on sales etc. We don’t say no to sales, but it can’t be permanent, can’t reduce the value of a product and lead to unnecessary purchases.
As a brand, we have a huge part of responsibility in the market drifts and the excessive consumption. Restoring value to the clothes is really a major battle horse of Jules, rise in quality and durability, value our know-how and our materials, say no to the disposable and to the wild sales. We want to help our clients to think about more thoughtful purchases.
Repairing is besides a good way to lead to that point. Indeed if a clothe has value, it can be reparable (change the zip, a pressure, sew up a rip, a buttonhole…). We have launched this service in about fifteen stores at the beginning of the year. It has started slowly because it’s not a reflex. I have good faith that with the time it becomes natural. Especially in men’s fashion, because men have this kind of “habit” to keep his favorite clothes until they are very used.
E.K: What is it the most motivating?
B.L: To see the team’s enthusiasm and energy. In fact, this is obvious. We are professionals, passionate by our jobs and of course or citizens, with our own convictions and commitments. The fact to have some meaning in that project, more than the performance, is an extreme motivating factor for all.
E.K: Your signature « men in progress » is both ambitious and humble, why?
B.L: Yes, we can say ambitious because behind this signature it’s the idea to create a movement of conscious men, positive, sensitive and ready to bring the change, to make the lines of men’s fashion and mentalities change. Our ambition is to settle everything to facilitate that evolution in our field of activity, fashion, meanwhile by calling on Men’s place nowadays in our society.
Now, we have to stay extremely humble. It’s just an invitation, we are not lessons’ teachers. Jules has just started its transformation, and we are not irreproachable, far from that. That notion of progress day after day, is something we care about and is decomplexing us. It’s by accepting that imperfection that we can achieve our ambitious goals.
E.K: Which are the initiatives you are the proudest of until now?
B.L: Obviously in the head of the pride, the work realized on the product. Of course, the materials (the label “In Progress” which already represents 35% of the collection), but also the background work on the quality and the product sustainability. In parallel, a stylistic redesign is going on and we would see the results in September.
Another big proud, the one that was efficient first, it’s the “buy what we are able to sell” approach. Since Fall Winter 2018 we have settled a driving thinner to our commitments, not to waste, not to sell off. To produce less and to accept to sell less, especially during sales. And thus restore the product value and avoid waste.
Finally, my personal pride: I am very proud of the new concept store. Skinned, with some furniture made in France in noble materials, without superficial material, going through letting down raw walls. The concept is the proof that we can do better, more local, less expansive and with less raw materials’ consumption. In the context, we have met in 2019 the founder of FabBrick, Clarisse Merlet, a young designer freshly graduated, who has set up bricks made in recycled textile. Jules trusted her as first client, integrating her bricks into our shops’ furniture. It was such a bet and a wonderful parterniship. Now her bricks are already here in 150 shops, it represents 45 000 bricks, or 9,5 tonnes of recycled textile.
E.K: You have made a collaboration with “Atelier Resilience”. Is it a laboratory and image operation or is it a real commercial success?
B.L: The engaged dynamic is pushing the team to still innovate, and the initiatives are flourishing from every side. Two collaborators have already worked with Resilience and Anti-Fashion in Roubaix. They wanted to settle a capsule collection with them. It was a huge commercial success, but obviously at a little scale, all the production being hand-made and local. Indeed, here we are in a “laboratory” and “learning” logic, in coherence with our positioning. But, behind of that we wish to develop that kind of partnership with our close environment and to offer our power to positive entrepreneurs.
E.K: How do you decide your collaborations, especially the one with the UEFA or PETANQUE?
B.L: With club Pétanque, we are clearly in a collaboration logic similar to the upcycling settled with Atelier Resilience, even if it’s in a bigger scale. It is a brand that we are following and that we love, a human meeting between teams with common values, and then the wish to do things together. It was the case by the past with Panafrica, Payote or even at a smaller scale with the Surfrider or Jonathan Lamy, a young volunteer firefighter, that we are supporting in his dream to climb the Everest and who returns funds to the firefighters’ Orphans.
For the UEFA, we are in a logic more commercial which is an unmissable thing in the men’s fashion market. Which doesn’t prevent from making a beautiful collaboration by creating a very great singular collection, with the “Jules” style.
E.K: Many actors in fashion are barter and vintage, do you have any projects?
B.L: More than some projects, we have settled in 19 shops a 2nd hand vintage corner. Called REWEAR, those corners give back life to some carefully selected pieces by our stylists: streetwear, denim, sportswear… We are working with Eureka for the clothes selection. This is the European specialist for the second-hand clothes, settled in Rouen since more than 40 years. A qualitative and unique second-hand fashion, this is the JULES’ vision of the second-hand. A fashion made to last and go through all styles and seasons.
E.K: And about the shops reopening?
B.L: The reopening is going well, incomparable with last year. We feel a strong wish of our clients to return to the pleasure of being dressed after one year in “underwear”! It is a real satisfaction and an incentive, we didn’t know how it will go having just the 2020 experience in mind, where the recovery had been very slow.