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Oct 14, 2022
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Oxbow unveils its made-in-France strategy

Translated by
Oct 14, 2022

The 21st edition of the Surf Summit organized by the surf industry cluster Eurosima was held at the Sporting Casino of Hossegor, France, on Thursday, October 13. It was an opportunity for surfing industry figures to take stock of the sector's dynamics in Europe, to discover start-ups in the field or to reinforce their surfing culture, by listening to the adventurous life of the world surfing champion and Australian shaper Maurice Cole. It was also an opportunity to share experiences between professionals. 

Conference at the Surf Summit in Hossegor - FNW

In this respect, the round table on the industry discussed the evolving trends of the sector. From the transformation of marketing, which requires the brand's teams to change the way they think, to the new ways of booking boarding experiences. These trends were analyzed by Philippe Sirech, founder of Spotyride. All of this in a positive market dynamic for the sector, with overall growth in the sports market of 5% to 6% over the last three years.

Over the last two years, the activity has been exponential within equipment with more and more people taking up the sport. And the trend was especially noticed in textiles, with performance being much better than that of the mass market, as pointed out by Jean-Louis Rodrigues, president of Eurosima, in a conference hosted by Frederic Tain, from the specialized media outlet Sport Guide.

"In this period, the industry has shown great agility, adapting to different ways of distribution. England and Germany were ahead of the game in terms of online sales, but Southern Europe was able to adapt. Questions about eco-design have become more important. Of course, our sector could have accelerated earlier, but the brands have been committed for several years. There is a lot of work being done on energy savings, on collections and especially in neoprene wetsuits. Now, I think we can make it better known," said Rodrigues.

With Oxbow, taken over in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic with Jean-Christophe Chetail and investor partners, CEO Debruères has started to communicate on more responsible initiatives. Oxbow, a company based near Bordeaux, has published its carbon footprint, which shows that with the production of two collections, it emitted 24,860 tons of CO2 in one year.

"We are transparent with our consumers. Our desire is to consider them as partners, members of the brand's community, rather than just customers. And to know how to improve, we had to take stock. We chose to work on our carbon footprint," explained the manager.

Difficulty producing a finished product in France

By taking over the French ready-to-wear brand, which has been immersed in the board sports culture since its beginnings, the entrepreneurs decided to start transforming its structure, with the objective of soon obtaining the B Corp certification, which guarantees that the company respects societal and environmental conditions and has a transparent approach towards the public. In this approach, last January, Oxbow presented its first pieces produced in France.

Although this project has been of interest in terms of image and carbon impact, and even with the production in Europe, and particularly in France, being less "carbon intensive" than in Asia, due to electricity production methods and transport, it is not without constraints.

"Oxbow is a French brand but with a business model that has been established for a very long time with production in India, Bangladesh and China. The company has grown and built its economic balance on a production model in Asia. The skills in France allow us to develop a technical guide for a product and the manufacturer takes care of everything and sends us the product in plastic. When we decided to make products in France, we looked for a partner capable of doing the same for T-shirts and pants. Except that we had trouble finding players capable of doing the assembly, sourcing and integrating buttons, velcro, labeling and printing," said Debruères.

The company opted to work with a production partner based in Aquitaine who did not tick all the boxes that Asian partners did. And therefore it changed its own way of operating. "For this collection, this partner was willing to change its organization in order to produce a finished product. But this required us to help them finance certain purchases. And there too, we faced disillusionment. We wanted to produce in France with French materials. And we realized that the quality of the materials was sometimes inferior to that of Portugal."

It is a difficult challenge, especially since according to the CEO, T-shirts produced in Bangladesh and delivered to the Oxbow warehouse have a cost of 4 dollars, while for a product coming from France, the cost is 10 to 12 euros. That is to say a product that is sold at around 45 euros in stores. "It is an additional obstacle," admitted Desbruères. "This collection is sold through our stores. The good news is that we have results beyond our expectations. In two years we have learned, selected the right partners and established the right processes. So we're going to continue on this path."

The Made-in-France collection now accounts for 10% of the brand's sales in its own stores. A positive indicator that partly validates the new owner's project. The brand, which in 2021 will achieve a turnover of more than 27 million euros, mostly in France, is redeploying a network with the opening of stores in Bordeaux, Rennes and Lyon in the coming months. 

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