In 2014, Le Slip Français opened to external investors, raising €2 million from the venture capital firm 360 Capital Partners. It used this injection of capital to grow the team, push further into online sales and to open its first physical store, in Paris. It has since added six more stores in France, concessions in three department stores, and has plans to open five stores across France this year.
“Shops reassure people,” says Mr. Gibault, pointing out that in France, Internet sales account for just 16.7% of overall clothing sales, according to the industry trade body. Sales at Le Slip Français have continued to rise: from € 1.5 million in 2014, to € 3.6 million in 2015, € 7.8 million in 2016 and € 13.1 million last year. Crucially, 2017 was the year the company broke even. The group now employs 62 people and works with 42 suppliers across France.
Next is international expansion. Currently 90% of sales are in France, but Le Slip Français has a following in the UK, the US, Germany and Japan, where it wants to expand. At the end of 2016 it raised an undisclosed amount from Experienced Capital, a venture capital firm specializing in retail and digital brands in the affordable luxury sector.
Le Slip Français, for its part, has set out to redefine the French fashion and textile industry. “You want to change the world? Start by changing your briefs!” it declares. Its founder’s intuition about consumers’ interest in the provenance of the products they buy has become the company’s raison d’être.
Currently, the company is working on a project, financed by the French government, to develop new production processes for the country’s textile industry. Mr. Gibault is plugged into circles at the Elysée Palace and was recently elected as a board member for France Digitale, a lobby group for entrepreneurs.
“Companies are not just economic agents,” he says. “Startups can change the way we produce, consume and do good.” One pair of briefs at a time.