3 questions for Xavier Aujard,
Creative Director and Manager of Prêt Pour Partir

XA

The Creative Director and Manager of Prêt Pour Partir, a high-end outerwear label, uses digital and traditional tools to stay close to his clients. This strategy maintains the trust of his retailers in France and around the world, a market that accounts for a significant percentage of sales.

What does the international market mean to Prêt Pour Partir?

Export represents 65% of our sales. Great Britain, the United States, and Japan are the countries we do the most business with. The heath crisis has obviously impacted this part of our activity. Right now the American market is particularly complicated. On one hand, orders always slow down during a presidential election, and on the other, the health crisis has, of course, affected consumption, meaning our retailers’ sales. And it’s not any easier in Japan! However, orders from Great Britain for the Spring-Summer 2021 collection have been very good.

How has the health crisis forced you to rethink your international activities?

From the beginning of the lockdown we were careful to stay in touch with our clients in France and around the world. For example, we sent our international customers personalised emails. Prêt Pour Partir is a very small structure where I design and sell the collections. That’s a plus. I know almost all of our clients, so I have a close relationship with them. That was an advantage for us. Since we have a good connection, they want to support us, to be loyal.

As soon as the lockdown started, we created new tools. Thanks to the PAD program (Plan d’Amplification Digitale) set up by the Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter Féminin with support from DEFI, we now have a B2B space on our website. It’s easy to find on our homepage and gives our retailers access to the Spring-Summer 2021 collection which is presented through packshots or 360° visuals produced by Studio by Grand Shooting.

At the same time, our e-shop is doing well, but we make sure it doesn’t compete with our retailers’ sales, which are our priority. We also have an Instagram Professional account with short videos of each of our designs.

We rounded out these services by sending a book about our Spring-Summer collection with 20 cm x 20 cm swatches in every colour of all the fabrics we used. For brands like ours, who are committed to using premium materials, it’s important to let clients touch the fabrics and see what the colours really look like.

And finally, we set up Zoom video conferences for all of our customers who couldn’t travel to our Paris showroom. I interact with them online just like during a regular sales presentation and show them what their pre-selected items look like when worn on the body. Our clients appreciate and use all of these tools – both digital and physical.

Prêt Pour Partir also participated in the French Fashion Corner. This virtual showroom, organised by Business France in partnership with the Fédération Français du Prêt à Porter Féminin, is dedicated to the American market. Given the current context, I hope to see results in between six months and a year. In addition, we joined Tranoï Link, a platform that connects buyers and brands.

What’s important today is to cultivate brand visibility using every available means, new or more traditional, and to be active in the field in France and Europe to compensate for international losses. That’s why I now travel to visit my French customers and show them the Spring-Summer collection in their places of business. In November I’ll do the same thing in Belgium with an extra emphasis on prospecting.

How do you see the future?

For our activity to continue, nothing will happen without the product! That’s what makes the difference. We’re lucky to be a niche brand renowned for quality and a unique style. That’s very encouraging for consumers who need constant reassurance. Despite the context, our clothes sell well, and retailers are ready to follow us. They’re confident about the brand, as much for the quality manufacturing as for the service we strive to give them.

This recognition doesn’t stop us from thinking about new creative strategies. I really believe in clothing that’s less gender-specific. I’m sure that women are going to take pieces from men’s wardrobes more and more often. We’ve seen it for some time in my collections, so we’re working on a men’s capsule for next winter. This will let us present more choices without moving away from our DNA. We have projects lined up, but we now know that it’s impossible to plan for more than the next six months. We have to be flexible and figure out an ever-changing demand. Our showroom is open to the general public, which helps us better understand end consumers’ expectations, and that’s an exceptional bonus. It’s also a way to maintain confidence. I remain optimistic since our results are good. But to keep them we need to work much more and always be inventive.