INTERVIEW | CEO of Vilebrequin:Cooperating With KOLs Who Truly Understand The Brand

November 25,2019

Vilebrequin, a French luxury swimwear brand which was founded in the 1970s, quickly became popular with tourists and fashionistas for its comfort, durability and bright colors, and the brand's iconic turtle image became increasingly known to European consumers.  Currently, Vilebrequin has a range of swimwear, ready-to-wear and accessories.

Vilebrequin officially entered the China market this year, and opened its first flagship store in the Jing'an Kerry Center in Shanghai. Mr. Roland Herlory, CEO of Vilebrequin, talked to Luxe.CO about what sustainable fashion means for the brand and what they plan to do once they enter China. One of the most important things Roland Herlory said about the Chinese market is that it takes time to grow in China, and that one needs to be patient.

Remain True To Sustainability, Even If It Conflicts With Profitability

In Roland Herlory's opinion, protecting the environment is everyone's responsibility. Producing high-quality and durable products and extending their service life is one of the most important ways for brands to practice sustainable fashion. “I think sustainable fashion is very important and everyone should take action to do something for the earth.” said Roland Herlory, “ Vilebrequin has launched a number of initiatives regarding this, such as men's shorts and swimming trunks that use polyester filament, a 100% recyclable filament made from plastic waste recycled by fishing boats from the Mediterranean. For every kilogram of this 100% recyclable polyester yarn produced, one kilogram of deep-sea waste is eliminated.”

There is also the Rashguards collection, which uses fibers made of recycled polyamide waste from discarded fishing nets and carpets.

The cost of making a sustainable product usually is higher than a normal product, maybe 10% higher, but Vilebrequin does not adjust the price -- they pay the extra cost themselves.

“In fact, sustainability is a difficult thing to measure and achieve. Because when you use sustainable fabrics, maybe your other production processes such as printing will create more carbon emissions,” said Roland Herlory, “so for me, the best way to practice sustainable fashion is to produce high-quality, durable products that last 10 years and reduce waste.”

Vilebrequin's swimwear production goes through a 32-step process. For example, all the back straps of the swimming trunks need to be hand-made so that the print on the pocket fits perfectly with the print on the pants themselves. This takes more fabric and time, but it is these details that showcase the quality of Vilebrequin.

Letting consumers use a product for 10 years is bound to be in conflict with profit to some extent -- however, Roland Herlory believes by creating a high-quality product, consumers will recommend it to their friends, thereby bringing more consumers and profit.

Officially Entering China Market

Vilebrequin has had success in North America and Europe so far, so the next logical step was to move to Asia. Chinese consumers account for one-third of global luxury consumption and China market is a very important market for Vilebrequin.

In terms of retail, Roland Herlory thinks that there is no difference between the China market and Western market. Offline channels include shopping centers, department stores and boutique stores, while online is an e-commerce platform. But different markets have different characteristics. When entering different markets, the brand needs to adjust according to market characteristics.

“Currently, we have set up a point of sales at the Atlantis Hotel in Sanya, and opened the first flagship store of China in Shanghai.” Roland Herlory stressed, “by the end of this year, we will open another one in Shenzhen. We are also considering  to open stores in Beijing and Chengdu next year. ”

However, it is worth noting that the family beach holiday is not very popular in China -- accordingly, Vilebrequin needs to occupy a very well defined niche segment in the China market, and continuously convey the brand spirit to customers that Vilebrequin product is not only for beach holiday, but also for daily life, such as the floral shirt and shorts which is also a very casual urban look.

In terms of product line, the proportion of products in the store will be adjusted according to the characteristics of different cities in the future. For example, in Sanya, the swimsuit series may account for 60-70%, and ready-to-wear series may account for 30%. In cities like Shanghai, ready-to-wear may account for 60-70%, and swimwear for about 30%.

Cooperating With KOLs Who Truly Understand The Brand

When it comes to branding in China, Roland Herlory said he would rather work with KOLs, who understands the spirit of Vilebrequin and recognizes the brand, than with a star.

So far, Vilebrequin has created an Official WeChat account to better communicate with customers. In terms of brand marketing, Roland Herlory prefers the public to know and understand the brand spirit, history, culture and products through media, rather than simply letting celebrities wear the products to attract consumers.

Similar to cooperation with KOLs, Roland Herlory wants to know the KOLs before they work together, to see if they understand the brand and what they think of Vilebrequin. “ I would invite them to our workshop in Paris to introduce our technologies, materials and history. Through all of this, we can decide if we want to work together.” said Roland Herlory.

Most importantly, for Vilebrequin, the point of communication is to find consumers who understand the spirit of the brand, rather than focusing on specific age groups.


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