Heritage French linen brand Blanc des Vosges CEO Jean-Francois Birac has been at the helm of the family business since 1980. Running a family-enterprise, Blanc des Vosges was founded by his great-great-great uncle in 1843. As he travels to Hong Kong to open its first Asian flagship at Mira Place, we find out how he embarked on this journey and why the brand does not compromise its “French Way of Living“.
I WANTED TO BECOME A DESIGNER AND RUNNING THE COMPANY WAS NOT MY INITIAL PLAN.
When I was a child, I didn’t want to be in the business. I was living just in front of the company; there was just one door that stood between my home and the company. At the time, my father and my uncle (4th generation) were managing the company together. They didn’t pressure me either; I was interested in design, it is my favourite thing, I wanted to be in the design industry. And after my studies, in economics, first in Paris, and then the U.K., and when I came back my father said to me “well, come to the company, just to have a look”. That was how it began. It took me about six years to learn and discover the company, first with marketing and then producing. That was 1980. I’ve been running it since. As it’s a heritage brand, it’s not easy, when I decide on any particular projects I’m thinking of the six generations before me!”
OUR HERITAGE AND BRAND SIGNATURE
We have many signatures, but we are most famous for our Jacquard design. It is a remarkable technique of Blanc des Vosges. It is a mixture of different threads that create a design, rather than a print. Not only does it give a fascinating, luxurious design, it is also very intricate, as it isn’t easy to show depth like shadows. There are very few (linen companies) in France to use this technique, so this makes us unique. Fashion also inspires us, we travel all over the world and attend a lot of runway shows. Fashion motivates us, we have two collections, twice a year, one summer, and one winter. It allows our customers to discover new designs. So, we have over 100 designs a year, and each comes in two colourways, making us modern and unique.
THE FIRST BLANC DES VOSGES STORE IN PARIS
One of my fondest and important moment occurred ten years ago when we opened our first BdV shop in Paris. Before, we only had distributors, about 1200 point of sale in France, but no stores. So when we decided to open our shop, it was a considerable achievement.
We now have 15 shops in Europe. In Asia, this is our first flagship store. We tested the market through Sogo, about one and a half years ago, and we were very successful, that’s why we decided to open our shop. I wanted to focus on Hong Kong because it’s an excellent city to enter, to distribute the brand, and as a gateway to China. Next year, we will open three stores in Shanghai.
MAKING LINEN MODERN AND FASHIONABLE
Twenty years ago, when I first started, the linen industry wasn’t so fashionable, we didn’t have the range of product and styles as we do now. We align our business with fashion, for the textile industry that’s a significant change. Also, Blanc de Vosges isn’t just a bed linen brand; we create patterns and textiles for the living room and bathroom as well. We are a lifestyle brand.
THE FRENCH WAY OF LIVING
We didn’t adapt or change our collection, but we adapted the sizes most suitable for the Hong Kong market. As the producers, this is easy to achieve. We want to introduce the “French way of living”. They will appreciate that we are made in France. We have a solid heritage of French products here. Hong Kong customers appreciate our origins. We were quite successful in SOGO because of this sentiment in not changing our collections.
THE IDEAL HAPPY HOME
It must be a comfortable and peaceful room, has soft products such as throws and pillows when we come back from our long day, you have to be relaxed.
DISCOVER THE SHOWROOM, SEE AND FEEL THE DIFFERENCE FOR YOURSELF
Discover the luxurious linen at Blanc des Vosges Flagship Store: B126-30 B/F Mira Place 1, 132 Nathan Road, TST.