By Danielle Walker
Stephane Cremieux, president of Daniel Cremieux Menswear, is not without a passion for clothing. But in order to make it in the industry, he advises that designers have a business acumen that matches their love for fashion.
His father, French designer Daniel Cremieux, started the label in 1976 with an American preppy-enters-Europe design aesthetic.
The Cremieux label, known for its tailored sportswear designs, recently moved its offices from Paris to a SoHo design loft in New York City.
Since last year, the brand has expanded into women's wear, luggage and home furnishings, and opened up the collection to be sold by retailers other than Dillard's, which the company has had a partnership with since 2000 to sell the collection exclusively. The $150 million business has distribution in France, Spain, Portugal, Dubai, Japan and the U.S., among other countries.
Last week, Cremieux visited the Dillard's at MacArthur Center, becoming the mall's first designer to visit a collection in the flesh.
In a sit-down with IB, Cremieux said the Norfolk Dillard's would be one of 24 markets where the label would launch a premier line of higher-end clothes. He also shared the company's long-term goals and advice for up-and-coming designers.
When did the company officially relocate to its SoHo headquarters from Paris, and what drove that decision?
Less than a year ago, in June of 2011, and we are going to celebrate our first year in New York soon. We are very excited to be in New York, because you can find more energy there sometimes than in Europe. In Europe, people are a little bit less technical and more arts-driven. To make it here [in the U.S.], you need that tenacity.
The objective of moving to New York was to perform better in the U.S. market. We are happy, but there are many things we can improve.
We also want to open freestanding stores, probably in New York for sure. We have six freestanding stores in France, and also some in Dubai, China and Spain.
The brand recently expanded beyond menswear, and opened up to outside retailers that do not compete with Dillard's. What influenced that move and how has it fared?
The women's wear line is big. It launched January of 2011 and it's doing very well. Dillard's said it's one of their best launches ever, so we are very happy.
We started with Dillard's in March of 2000, and we are expanding with them. It has been a great partnership. At the end of the day, the meaning is to make quality products.
How has the collection done at MacArthur Center?
This store has been doing really well. Our customers, on the whole, are recovering and want to come back to a better quality of product - luxury items. Our best products are the most expensive ones, like cashmere sweaters and high-end sports coats.
In 2012, we are introducing a premier line of high-end clothes with shirts starting at $145 and jackets, $495 and up. Only 24 markets will have it, [including] this store. It is a full commitment that will launch in a limited amount of stores.
What kinds of challenges does opening the brand up to other retailers present to the company? What are the benefits?
We are not in the stock market, so we don't have the pressure of the press or investors. It's our money; we decide when we want to do something. We do it for us and we do it for the future of the company. We are one of the last French brands alive in menswear.
My objective is to grow the company, and to grow over a very, very long time. Our goal is not to sell the company in a few years. We are trying to be alive in 30 years.
Our business model today is based on a distribution license where we control the marketing and the pricing. That's the direction we want to go in over the next 10 years.
What trends are you seeing in sportswear, or the clothing industry in general, that reflect where the company is headed?
The recession has influenced a lot of the ways that people are consuming. For a while, very vintage-oriented products [were in], and people didn't want to look good. They wanted to look casual, comfortable.
Now, America is in recovery, and people really want to look good. The trend is coming back to what we know how to do the best: tailored clothing, banker-style, cleaner, finer fabrics and fitted in size.
Too many brands are too oversized or too tight. We are not a company that is extreme in that aspect. The young generation is asking for slim fits, but [our pieces like that] are not tight. In the end, people have to wear the product.
What advice do you have for those interested in starting a clothing line, keeping in mind the state of the industry?
You need a lot of money. It's not an easy business. I think it's great that the new generation has the interest and talent, but we have to sell the design. I'm a little bit pragmatic - we make clothes to sell them. Sometimes we make crazy jackets that become bestsellers, but they are not unsellable.
Make a line that is new, fresh, authentic and of quality. Cheap stuff will disappear. You can't compete with price, because there is always cheaper out there.
Also, trend is important. If it's boring, it's not going to sell. I think today is a challenge because you need everything. Our world is really in the long term. nib