It is a difficult bet that Véronique Boute has decided to take at all costs. When she launched her cap brand in 2020 Headonist, after a career as a collection director at Galeries Lafayette and Burton of London, French manufacturing seemed obvious to her, for reasons of know-how, quality and ethics.
If this fashion enthusiast assumes her choice, she nevertheless almost threw in the towel. “What is a hassle isidentify manufacturers. A majority of them are in hat making, but the expertise is different. Others say they manufacture caps, but they outsource their activity abroad, ”explains the 51-year-old designer.
After several months of research, she identified, in 2019, through the Maison du Savoir Faire et de la Création site, a handful of manufacturers. “I spotted four whose know-how corresponded to our needs, namely to make a real American baseball cap with rigid front shapes, for example,” notes the entrepreneur.
Out of these four contractors, the entrepreneur decides to approach two. The tools of other factories are already working at full speed for major brands and luxury houses. “I visited the factory of a manufacturer based in the South-West in July 2020. There was no room until December,” explains Véronique Boute.
Then she approaches Arnaud Le Carpentier, leader of the Sofac based in Bernay, Normandy. It has a factory specializing in state markets, which makes tailor-made and ceremonial headdresses for military markets and airlines.
“It’s difficult to be credible at the start when presenting the project,” admits Véronique Boute. Fortunately, on the fabric manufacturers side, I was able to play my network to convince him to follow me, from the start, when I only ordered small quantities. So I was able very quickly to present to the manufacturer the very good quality wools and fabrics that I wanted to use to have a premium or even luxury product ”.
Small series and upcycling
The duo quickly experimented with materials and launched a first collection in September 2020. “Our strategy is to only make small series of 100 copies numbered, to avoid unsold items. I want to renew the collections, and offer exclusive products that are not found on everyone, ”explains Véronique Boute.
To market her premium Made In France caps, the designer had to take up another challenge: that of the cost of production. “We have little room for maneuver with the manufacturer,” says the manager. We are not on price negotiations but on know-how negotiations. The pieces are assembled and sewn by hand. Some products are very difficult to make, such as the model designed with recycled cashmere wool, usually used to make coats or the very fine wool one used for costumes. “
For a cap sold for 129 euros, the manufacturing cost represents a third of the price. To reduce it, Véronique Boute has been able to find the right veins. She started with reduce your fabric budget. “I upcycled as much as possible. Sectors are being created to sell unused fabrics, by luxury houses, ”slips the supporter of Made In France.
Collaborate with influencers
To promote her brand, the entrepreneur also carries out savings on marketing expenses. “I manage the Instagram account and work with influencers like Antoine Deneriaz, former Olympic ski champion who is now an entrepreneur,” she adds.
To make people talk about her, the leader offered a cap to Patrick Le Chinois, a comedian who made the crazy bet of rallying China in a smart way, in the midst of the Covid crisis to play his show in Mandarin. “He posts regularly on social networks with his Headonist cap on his head,” laughs Véronique Boute.
And it works! The young brand has sold more than 50% of the stock of the first season and plans to complete a year 2021 on a turnover of 100,000 euros.
A phygital model
From a purely digital strategy, Headoniste had to switch to a phygital model. “With the new constraints on the use and acceptance of third-party cookies, the affiliate systems we have put in place are less effective. At the same time, we have seen an explosion of Made in France “marketplaces” which do not allow us to control the data of our customers, ”regrets the merchant.
Véronique Boute therefore decides to deploy her caps in ultrapremium physical points of sale, particularly popular with foreign tourists: the boutiques of palaces in Courchevel and Val d’Isère, on the Côte d’Azur, or concept stores in Paris, Ile de Ré or Cannes. “When I opened a pop-up store at BHV in Paris in 2020, I noticed that customer feedback is very positive. Made In France is a guarantee of quality and it becomes an export purchasing argument, ”notes Véronique Boute.
Next step: from winter 2022, the young brand plans to distribute its products in South Korea and to carry out a fundraising in September 2022 to set up the design of made-to-measure caps with noble materials and to develop even more internationally.