At the Saint-Denis headquarters, photographers are busy unfolding clothes. In five studios, the flashes crackle to feed the online catalog of the Paris Fashion Shops marketplace, under the sharp eye of Jacky Chang, its president and founder. On the ground floor, in a warehouse, 3,000 packages are patiently waiting to be shipped to 150 countries. In these boxes pile up dresses, jackets, sweaters or T-shirts, from 1,200 Parisian wholesalers.
Jacky Chang does not hide his pride. With 60 employees, the company he created in 2016 connects Parisian wholesalers and independent fashion boutiques around the world. Taking, in passing, a commission of around 10% and taking care of customer service, his company generates 8.2 million euros in turnover and brews 50 million euros in financial flows per year, a figure that grows by 50% every year.
The entrepreneur has just taken a new step. In early March, Jacky Chang launched Bonjour Shops, a tool allowing shops to create their own e-commerce site for, initially, 20 of its customers.
It was not won. Because Jacky Chang, himself a former wholesaler in Aubervilliers, has come a long way. And nothing destined this 48-year-old man, without digital training, to lead a start-up.
He was barely 10 years old when he arrived in France with his parents, fishmongers from Zhejiang province in China. In Paris, they will be leatherworkers. After school, their son helps them cut the bags in the family workshop. But he stopped his studies just before the baccalaureate. “We are a family of entrepreneurs. My management teacher being absent, I decided that life would teach me more than school, ”he smiles.
With his wife Rebecca, also the daughter of a wholesaler, and the 100,000 francs his parents had saved for him, he founded his first leather goods company… then launched into ready-to-wear, soon creating his own collections. “The strength of my parents, first generation of immigrants, was the courage to work tirelessly. That of my generation is to improve it through creativity,” he says.
For more than twenty years, Jacky Chang was a textile wholesaler in Aubervilliers. But faced with the big fast-fashion brands, the workshops that supply the independent shops are soon at the end of their tether. His turnover is declining, like that of his competitors… and his nephew, also in the sector.
He then came up with the idea of Paris Fashion Shops. “Jacky came to see me and explained the concept to me,” recalls Johnny Chang, now a partner and chief operating officer of the company. It was a huge risk since we had to let go of our respective companies, those who paid our bills…. But I shared his observation, I know he has a fine nose, and then, we don’t say no to uncle! “Working as a family is “sometimes complicated but it is also our strength. Because we can talk to each other frankly and… channel my uncle”.
The mechanics of the market
The general opinion is that Jacky is a go-getter. Too much perhaps. “He has ten thousand ideas a minute, sometimes to the point of putting the cart before the horse,” laughs Didier Rosenberg, co-founder of the Datawords company and investor in Paris Fashion Shops alongside the Eurazeo fund. From our first meeting, I saw that he had understood all the mechanics of the market. He is concrete and pragmatic, because he has been in the position of his clients. And the greatest successes of tech start-ups are precisely achieved by those who come from the profession, not by developers, ”says the investor.
Despite his enthusiasm, Jacky Chang wants to develop in stages: “First consolidate our business in France. The 1,200 suppliers who go through us represent only 1.25% of the sales of Parisian wholesalers. He will then develop a model for high-end brands. It was only afterwards that he considered going international, by creating a Milano Fashion Shops, a London Fashion Shops or even a New York Fashion Shops…