French mail-order catalogs 3 Suisses and La Redoute are competing fiercely these days when it comes to scoring coveted designer collaborations in a bid to revamp their image from traditional mass market retailers to purveyors of stylish, avant-garde fashion. Who's winning in this tight race?
Both companies date back more than half a century: 3 Suisses was founded in 1928 by Xavier Toulemonde for his family's knitted wool business, while La Redoute is even older - it was established in 1922.
In terms of international sales and market penetration, 3 Suisses - owned by leading international trading and services corporation The Otto Group - is available in 16 countries, including all of Europe, China, Tunisia and Ukraine. La Redoute, owned by the French conglomerate PPR's Redcats Group, boasts 18 million clients in 22 countries, including most of Europe, Russia, South Korea, Sweden and Lebanon. Domestic-wise, La Redoute currently trumps 3 Suisses as the number one mail-order website in France. However, neither company boasts a dedicated US e-commerce site and both remain relatively unknown across the pond.
Upcoming high-profile designer collaborations:
3 Suisses asked the famous Parisian fashion buyer Maria Luisa to select three of her vanguard designers to contribute haute pieces at bargain prices for its spring/summer 2011 collection. There are sleek block color silk dresses by Scottish-born designer Jonathan Saunders, structured tuxedo suits and graphic cocktail dresses by the young French talent Maxime Simoens, and breezy silk tops and dresses by London designer Richard Nicoll.
Meanwhile, La Redoute commissioned Belgian-born designer Cathy Pill and French footwear designers Robert Clergerie and Tila March for its spring/summer 2011 collection. Pill's line includes bright whimsical dresses, a cobalt blue summer pantsuit and colorful sandals. Robert Clergerie's collection features straw-woven wedges and tri-colored derby shoes. Tila March's range offers elegant leather flat sandals.
S/S 2011 designer collaboration price ranges:
For 3 Suisses, the prices are as follows: 99-149 euros ($132-199 USD) for Maxime Simoens' womenswear range, 149-169 euros ($199-226 USD) for Jonathan Saunders' womenswear collection, and 89-149 euros ($119-199 USD) for Richard Nicoll's womenswear line.
For La Redoute, the prices are as follows: 60-180 euros ($80-240 USD) for Cathy Pill's womenswear range and 130-200 euros ($173-266 USD) for Robert Clegerie's footwear line. Prices for Tila March's summer sandals have not yet been disclosed by the company.
Prior high-profile designer collaborations:
Trois Suisses has teamed up with high-end designers since the 70s. Its roster includes Sonia Rykiel, Valerie Hash, Manish Arora, Charles Anastase, Natalia Brilli, Christian Wijnants, and Bernhard Willhelm.
Starting with Emmanuelle Kahn in 1969, La Redoute has also regularly teamed up with big-name designers including Jean Paul Gaultier, Sonia Rykiel, Yves Saint Laurent, Gaspard Yurkievich and Tsumori Chisato.
Most recent campaign models:
French celebrity Lou Doillon - the daughter of style icon Jane Birkin and the former face of Paris luxury house Givenchy - is the face of La Redoute's spring/summer 2011 collection. Her half-sister - the photographer Kate Barry - shot the advertising campaign. Doillon previously modeled for the catalog with her mother in 2007.
Karl Lagerfeld shot 3 Suisses' A/W 2010 campaign featuring Austrian supermodel Iris Strubegger: she was the former face of Valentino and Givenchy. The Kaiser himself posed with items as mundane as washing machines in the catalog he shot for the brand.