“Knitwear is in our DNA,” confirms Jean-Pierre Hennebell, Director of Administration and Finance. “We draw on our own in-house team of designers. To integrate new spirits, we also collaborate with external French design partners. As a result, all our products are 100% designed in France. Our production partners produce entirely according to our specification sheets. Our complete production chain is subject to stringent quality controls and audits. Also, all finished products undergo detailed quality checks before they leave our facilities. We often visit our suppliers and partners in order to check the quality standards.”
Mainly, Devernois sells through its own shops. The company operates 132 own boutiques under its own name, mainly in France, Great Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal and Switzerland. All shops boast an atmosphere of natural harmony in order to valorize the company’s collections.
“Our fashion style is simple and pure. The same is true for our boutiques,” says Mr. Hennebelle. “We prefer to use natural materials such as stone and wood and simple furniture. The atmosphere in our boutiques is warm and welcoming in order to make our customers feel comfortable – like at home.”
In addition to its own boutiques, the network of Devernois includes eleven franchisees and a range of agents who sell in multi shops. Also, the company’s products are represented in major department stores, such as Les Galeries Lafayette, Printemps or Il Corte Ingles.
Recognising the signs of the times, Devernois opened up an online shop four years ago. Already, the shop contributes around 2% to the total turnover and is steadily on the rise.
“We follow a cross-channel marketing strategy,” explains Mr. Hennebelle. “Our customers can try on clothes in our shops and order via the Internet, or have the clothes they order online sent to one of our boutiques.”
Altogether, Devernois achieves around 30% of its annual turnover through export activities, selling to customers in 20 countries worldwide. Today, Europe is an important market for the French fashion expert. Also, Devernois supplies clients in the USA, Canada, Russia, Middle East and South Africa.
“We draw on almost 90 years of experience in the market,” Mr. Hennebelle explains the company’s sustainable success. “As a result, we draw on profound knowhow. We are experts in materials and processes and know our industry by heart. Also, the founder’s family has always been dedicated to the business.”
The roots of Devernois date far back to 1927, when Claudius Devernois set up a small enterprise in Coteau, specialising in knitwear. The history of the company reads like a story of creativity and innovation.
In the beginning, all products were handmade. In the 1940s, production was industrialized. In the 1950s, the company became known for its unique jumpers. When in 1967, the second family generation came on board with Zelia and Jean-Bernard Devernois, the business expanded again.
Also, the company became known for its designs, for example for its graphic patterns at the end of the 1960s, its minimalistic designs in the 1970s and for its anniversary line designed by Frank Sorbier in the 1980s.
Still owned by the founder’s family, the company is managed by the third family generation now. Thierry Brun, the husband of Séverine Brun, the grand-daughter of Claudius Devernois, is the current President. Both joined the family enterprise in 2006.
With a staff of 320, Devernois achieves an annual turnover of around 50 million EUR. In the coming years, Devernois aims to enhance its international sales network.
“We will open up new own boutiques and increase the number of franchise partners,” says Mr. Hennebelle. “Also, we will enhance our e-commerce activities. We believe in cross-channel marketing. There are still some white spots on our map we would like to eliminate. Yet, we still see growth potential in our existing markets, too. However, we are always open to new markets, partnerships and chances. In our market, you must not stand still.”
Devernois will not rest on its laurels in the coming years and and already expanded its collections in order to target fashion-oriented women between 40 and 50. “I am sure that also in the future, we will be able to meet the demands and preferences of our customers.”