Born from the imagination of theatre designer Simon Bénarousse, who found children’s clothes too simple and boring, the brand “Du Pareil au même” (translation: “six of one, (and) half a dozen of the other”) has always been defined by fun and colourful products. After the brand’s first store opened in 1986, the French success story is now really taking shape. A baby line was launched in 1994 and then a line of shoes in the 2000s, the club card (loyalty program) was launched in 2004 and events take place regularly. By 2013 the brand was present across 32 countries, had 2.5 million subscribers to its loyalty program and opened its 600th store. (1) How has the brand changed the clothing market? How has it developed its strategy? How does it communicate to mums?
The children’s clothing market
As the fastest growing sector of the apparel market, the children’s sector is supported by positive structural factors, including a growing target population, the fact that children change size and shoe size every 6 months until they hit adolescence, the rise in the average age of women when they have their first child (stronger buying power), etc. However, according to the Xerfi institute, it seems to be struggling in the economic context of 2013. Specialists brands are competing with extensions of adult brands (Zara Kids, Mexx Kids, Gap Kids, etc.) who are trying to gain customers from the child sector. (2) This is why DPAM re-launched its marketing strategy, expanding its digital offer amongst other initiatives.
The Decorative Arts Museum in Paris is currently hosting an underwear exhibition which started July 5, 2013. The collection displays contraptions used by both women and men from the fourteenth century up to the present day to define their body shapes.
Since sociology focused on the study of the body, it has become clear that “the body” mirrors the values, constraints and codes of society at the time. In other words, « Tell me what you look like and I’ll tell you what century you live in. »
« (…) The body is (…) seen as the location of and the key to social inclusion, but also as the result of this inclusion, » writes sociologist Christine Detrez. (1) The art of « underwear » can be defined as « body technique, » a concept raised by anthropologist Marcel Mauss (1930), describing « the ways in which mankind (…) knows how to make the most of the body, no matter what society they come from. » (2)
In the sector of lingerie for men, targeting women is crucial because purchases are often prescribed or carried out by them. For brands, the issue is difficult because they have to talk to both men and women.
In 2013, the Aubade brand introduced a new strategy to conquer the male audience. « In 2003, we launched a menswear collection, but after the takeover by the Calida Group in 2005, the strategy was focused on retail development, Strengthening product was then used to serve our feminine universe. (…) Today, the women’s collection plan and the network (fifty shops) have reached a certain maturity, we can tackle the men’s market, and even more interesting since it is stable « said Claire Masson, brand manager. (1)
A survey published in January 2012 by Kantar Worldpanel for The International Lingerie Salon in Paris analyses hot consumers trends relating to underwear. It reveals, in particular, that in regard to seduction, men and women are far from having the same perception on lingerie. Let’s take a look at these gender differences in relation to underwear.
Less thongs, more comfort
In the big match between girdle and thong, the girdle amazingly wins. The survey shows that women buy thongs less than in the past. The thong simply isn’t fashionable anymore: between 2008 and 2011, purchases of thongs declined from 30 to 25%. On the other hand, shapewear could be the new brands’ spearhead. The girdle and high-waisted briefs are quickly regaining ground: 1 woman in 4 has one and 50% of women consider them to be practical buys, helping them to appear more slim or purchases which are fashionable again.
With its advertising campaign “family is sacred”, Eram counts on irony to twist advertising clichés about the family unit.
By showing families with gay parents or a “cougar” mother in a relationship with a younger man, the brand has distinguished itself.
It has been an original and provocative initiative which has disturbed the most conservative people in France.
A campaign which reflects social mutations
“As my two mums say, family is sacred,” announces a mixed-race little girl surrounded by two women with clear skin. “As my mum and her boyfriend, who could be my older brother say, family is sacred,” claims another little girl who is fair-haired. With stepfamilies, lesbian couples, “cougar” mums in relationships with younger men, or adopted children, identities are multiplying. The figure of the mother may be heterosexual or homosexual, family can be “reconstituted”, but the spirit of family remains. This idea surprises and calls out to people in an advertising world which doesn’t always echo social changes. But more than merely being surprising, this ad provokes. It plays on the wavelengths between the expression “family is sacred”, which refers to traditional and religious values, and images reflecting the new family structures. Especially by making the kids be the ones talking, Eram insists on the fact that their lives are not destabilised by these social mutations.
A recent aufeminin.com survey revealed that a pair of Louboutins are one of the 5 fashion items women dream of owning. The iconic red soles seem to hold a special spot for women, just as much, or more so, than men…
« The man with the red soles » has never stopped breaking pre-established codes. It was his impertinence that launched his career in fact: having seen a sign at the entrance to a museum that banned stiletto heels in order to preserve the wooden floor, he decided to set about creating such sensual shoes. Aged 16 and armed with his sketches, he knocked on the door of music halls, but without success. Instead of giving up, he decided to get some training at the professionals: Chanel, Yves Saint-Laurent then Roger Vivier… before finally launching his own brand in 1992.
Following a study of 1500 European women in 2011, the French Institute of Fashion explains why women are essential to the growth in the apparel sector, what drives them to buy and the different approaches to style in each country.
Fashion – an essential preoccupation for Europeans
In Europe, women account for 50% of the average amount spent on clothing (a sector whose annual turnover is estimated at 15 billion Euros in France). The trend over the last decade is an increase in the number of clothing purchases, thanks to a drop in prices (-13% between 2000 and 2010). This is reflected in the favourite European brands: even If Prada and Longchamp are the favourite brand when it comes to bags, people prefer to do their shopping at Zara and H & M.
Alexander, Laurent and Raphael Elisha were all destined to work in fashion: their father, Tony, is the founder of the brand ‘Comptoir des Cotonniers’, and he soon involved his sons in his adventure. In 2008, the three brothers developed some strategies (advertising in pairs), adapted their target market (young and trendy couples), and The Kooples was born. Three years later, it is one of the fastest growing textile brands in France and abroad…
It was from word of mouth that The Kooples became known: even before opening the first store, the brand had launched a major advertising campaign featuring couples, with no mention of the brand. It was to attract attention, but also to show the originality of the concept: one shop for both men and women, with almost mixed collections, as shown in the slogan « A locker room for two. » Heterosexual or homosexual, young or old, all types of couples were represented. Their only similarity? Style.
Created in 1968, the swimwear brand Erès has always been proud of being different to other swimwear manufacturers: the brand produces luxury, elegant, perennially stylish and impeccably cut swimming costumes and bikinis, which enhance the shape of women’s bodies and are seen as a feminine rite of passage.
The brand’s founder, Irène Leroux, invented a concept that a lot of people believed was doomed to failure: a swimwear shop open all year round. Back then, the majority of women purchased their swimwear while on holiday, without really thinking about whether the cut of the garment was appropriate for their body shape. « At the time, when people were wrapped up in their winter coats and they passed in front of the shop window and saw my swimming costumes with red and white Tahitian prints, they thought I was crazy. I had the idea as a result of the Brazilian jet set passing through Paris: the women bought their swimwear in September because summer in South America only began in October, » explains the designer to Les Echos newspaper. With Erès, wealthy Parisians finally had a place where they could choose a swimming costume to flatter their body before heading off to exotic destinations.
In June 2011, the French children¹s label Petit Bateau unveiled its new range of bodies. And in doing so, it sparked a scandal: the clothes were printed with a list of adjectives characterising the two sexes, with girls being « cute and funny » and boys being « strong and determined »… The use of such sexist clichés angered many Internet users, who invaded the brand’s Facebook page.
In Petit Bateau’s universe, little girls should be « pretty, headstrong, funny, sweet, eager, flirty, loving, cute, elegant, beautiful » whilst little boys should be « courageous, strong, proud, robust, valiant, cunning, smart, determined, mischievous, cool ». It’s a rather chauvinist description of the two sexes, according to Elise Fimbel, the first Internet user who took to the brand’s Facebook wall to convey her outrage: « I’ve just seen the photo of your sexist bodies which spell out the worst of stereotypes. It’s pathetic. If retro is the fashion, it doesn’t make sense to me to take a big step backwards.«