Sep 24, 2013
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Longchamp CEO Jean Cassegrain: "The whole world walks down Regent Street"

Sep 24, 2013

With 2012 sales attaining a record 454 million euros, Longchamp continues to conquer the world, totally independent of any corporate parent, posting an increase of 75% (!) since 2009. Following new openings in Brazil, the family-run business just inaugurated its European flagship store in London a few days ago. An interview with the grandson of the founder and current CEO of the brand, Jean Cassegrain.

FashionMag: What prompted Longchamp to open its largest store in London?

Jean Cassegrain: The whole world walks down Regent Street. This is our largest store in Europe and the second largest in the world after New York. But it’s more than just about size. The store especially helps us to expand each product categories with more freedom compared to smaller spaces, which force us to focus on the essentials in our range. In Regent Street, for example, we were able to present our entire men's line on the first floor. No other Longchamp store distributes as many products for men because they do not have enough space. Another example, shoes and ready-to-wear also have their own area on the ground floor. Beyond the marketing function, the stores play a role in communicating with the public. Which is also why we needed a stronger presence in London, a city with a large population, energetic and where there is definitely more money circulating than in Paris, at least judging by the city's restaurants, luxury cars and shops. Not to mention, of course, the growing number of tourists visiting here, as in Paris.

Outside the Longchamp store in Regent Street, London | Source: DR

FM: Your performance is making some people jealous, especially thanks to Asia. How do you see this?

JC: We have the distinction of being present in Asia since the 50s, especially in Japan. My father (Philippe Cassegrain, son of Longchamp founder Jean Cassegrain Sr., ed) could tell you about his boat trips to Singapore and Hong Kong in 1956 to sell Longchamp products, so this story goes way back. Historically, we were among the first European brands to be sold in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. Asia is currently the growth leader in terms of turnover, especially in Southeast Asia and China. We operate direct-owned stores in the most mature markets. Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong all have their own subsidiaries. Otherwise, we work with franchised dealers in more complicated or smaller markets such as Thailand and Indonesia. In addition, we started up operations in Brazil, with two store openings in São Paulo these past few months.

FM: Longchamp has yet to go into licensing, such as for fragrances and eyewear. Why is that?

JC: We do everything ourselves, except ready-to-wear and shoes, which we have produced by expert manufacturers located mainly in France and Italy. Regarding the categories you mention, we regularly receive offers that would essentially be managed under licenses. We cannot do everything all at once. Right now, we are focusing on developing shoes and clothing. And who knows, why not eventually invest in new sectors.

FM: Does copying have much of an impact on the Longchamp brand?

JC: Unfortunately yes, and in all sorts of ways. It demands a lot of our time and energy but is also a high priority. If our products are on the market as counterfeits with bad merchandising and poor quality, this can really jeopardize our image. It can even endanger consumers' desire for our brand. Especially today, as the internet has created a whole other dimension. In the past, one had to travel to cities around the world known for their counterfeit products, such as Istanbul, Shanghai and Bangkok. Now you can order copies directly from your living room on the internet. Can you believe that there are even online stores operated from China that mimic the appearance of our own site?

Jean Cassegrain and Kate Moss at the opening of the London flagship | Source: DR

FM: Regarding leather goods manufacturing, do less upscale competitors affect your business?

JC: Our business is affected by the fact that the competition takes many shapes and comes from all directions. Twenty years ago, leather goods manufacturing was a distinct profession practiced by specialists. Since then, the handbag has really become a mainstay in the field of fashion. It has even become the most important element on the market. That was very positive for Longchamp because our star product sort of got the leading role. The flipside of this is that today, everyone makes handbags. It is now a must-have product for all brands in all sectors of the market. But which of them can claim to make their own bags themselves? This really forces us to perfect what we do and always offer something better.

FM: What is the role of Longchamp ready-to-wear, one you seem to be developping?

JC: Like at many other fashion houses, our ready-to-wear functions as a hallmark. Although it is a category all its own, it is also designed to bolster the sales of our leather goods. And in the end, ready-to-wear sets the tone each season and gives our stores some momentum, which bring in complete silhouettes, such as our store here in London. What's more, the past few seasons we have been offering a new category that is completely consistent with and even closer to our original business, namely shoes. For example, our products are sold in Galeries Lafayette's shoe department and, as you know, we opened a pop-up shoe store in the rue Saint-Honoré.

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