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Ready-to-wear: the tough fight for “made in France”

This year, 1083 launched its first 100% “made in France” jeans by growing cotton in Gers and Drôme.

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Ready-to-wear: the tough fight for “made in France”

This year, 1083 launched its first 100% “made in France” jeans by growing cotton in Gers and Drôme. The manufacturer from Romans-sur-Isère sold 500 on pre-order. There will be others, but their number will depend on the quality of the next cotton harvest... Without going so far as to plant fields, dozens of brands, young and old, have bet on "made in France" : Saint-James, Petit Bateau, Le Slip français, 1083, Blanc Bonnet, Armor Lux, Aigle… Their products, to be considered as made in France, are not entirely made in the country, but “a significant part” is, according to customs.

According to the Union of Textile Industries, the sector employs 62,000 people, in 2,200 companies, small manufacturers scattered throughout France. Players who do not hesitate to go against the tide, while the general trend for fifty years has been to the relocation of clothing manufacturing in order to reduce costs as much as possible. “Those who make “made in France” are a bit crazy, determined to create local employment, minimize their carbon impact and revive territories, summarizes Guillaume Gibault, president of Slip français, which is counting on 20 million euros in turnover this year. We must revive know-how, training, innovation, recruitment…” Today, only 3% of the volumes of textiles and clothing sold in France are manufactured in France. “The fight is to increase this figure to 5% in the coming years,” according to Guillaume Gibault.

Beyond the ecological advantage, a complicated economic equation must be resolved. In a ready-to-wear market that continues to decline, consumers are more and more careful about spending. Because of inflation, he buys less and more cleverly - especially second hand. To the detriment of clothes made in France. Thus, according to a recent study by OpinionWay, 89% of French people would like to consume more products “made in France”, all categories combined. But they don't. “These products carry values. But their price is the number one obstacle to their purchase,” recognizes Gilles Lasbordes, general director of the Première Vision fashion show. However, this price will not go down. “Costs will always remain higher in France than abroad,” warns Luc Lesénécal, president of Tricots Saint James, and of the National Institute of Crafts (Inma). “Made in France” only has a future if it capitalizes on the excellence of exceptional know-how, recognized by the State label Living Heritage Company (EPV).”

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Saint James produces almost all of its sweaters and striped sweaters in France. In Manche, in Saint-James, 300 people work in its workshops. Three years ago, the company decided to relocate the manufacturing of its peacoats to France. Until then, woolen cloth was made in the Ardennes. But assembly was mainly done in Türkiye. The first fall-winter collection of the first “made in France” Saint James peacoats has only just been released. “We wanted our three iconic products (sweater, sailor top, pea coat) to be made in France,” explains Luc Lesénécal. We called on three makers, including one from Normandy. It costs us 30% more.” Thanks to optimization of production costs (orders are placed a year in advance), shelf prices have “only” increased by 20%.

Thomas Huriez, the founder of 1083, took ten years to relaunch the production of jeans in France, from cotton to the button. “It’s laborious, long but stimulating,” he says. Creating beautiful products locally for consumers we meet in our stores and workshops gives meaning. Economically, this difficult challenge is possible thanks to short circuits.” In a market of 67 million jeans purchased in France each year, 1083 sells 50,000. It's much more than initially imagined, but it's a drop in the bucket. “Producing in France requires strong and unique added value,” insists Céline Choain, partner at Kea.

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However, volumes are not taking off. The French textile industry therefore wrote to Emmanuel Marcon on November 9 to receive concrete support in its relocation to France. In addition to investment support, professionals and their representatives are asking for tax incentives such as reduced VAT or subsidies. And, why not, more public orders. Saint-James supplies, on a marginal basis, sweaters to the army, air force and the national navy. They also want to put an end to the confusion created by product labeling. Today, we find brands with French connotations and blue, white and red labels on products that are absolutely not made in France.

“There are several paid labels, such as Origine France Garantie and France Terre Textile,” explains Martin Breuvart, president of Lemahieu hosiery and Façon de faire, a collective of 180 textile manufacturers. The “made in France” label is free, but vague. We are asking the government to impose the same label on everyone, with a requirement for transparency on the manufacturing stages.”

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