Mix & Match. There are those who have managed to turn this concept into an art as well as a business with surprising consequences. This is the only way to define the case history of Les Georgettes, a brand that, in just three years, has achieved a turnover of 50 million Euros, with the prospect of doubling up within 2020. “Chapeau” to Monsieur Eric Lefranc, a businessman with a vision that can only be defined as extremely solid and effective. I met Eric in Les Georgette by Altesse’s new offices in rue Auber in Paris, a short walk from the Garnier Opera House. A prestigious location in a typical hotel particulier, full of marble, stuccos and granite, that had just opened to make space for a team increasingly nourished by young collaborators who, with their fresh ideas and palpable enthusiasm, are actively contributing to this exponential growth.
Eric is now the President of the Renaissance Luxury Group generated by the merger between Altesse and Texier, two “Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant”, the transalpine version of the Aziende Storiche Italiane (Historical Italian Companies). Altesse, founded in 1905 and with premises in the southern French department of Ardèche, specializes in jewelry manufacture, while Texier was established in 1951 in Brittany and immediately focused its business on the leather goods sector. These two “in-house” organizations have been joined by an outsider: SMV, located in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which deals purely with stone mounting. But how did the bijoux and leather goods sectors come to “mix”? «The original idea is simple, or perhaps it would be better to say, seems simple, seeing that the company already boasts 7 invention patents. The basic ingredients for our rapid success are: creating an easy-to-wear accessory line with a unique and original twist, the right quality/price ratio, and, above all, items that can be personalized almost to infinity. In short, items that aim at being “collectable”, at that word of mouth that immediately goes viral. » And this is how, from the prototype to the very first Les Georgettes bracelet in 2015, the company arrived at selling over 100 million pieces in 2018. One hundred million of which 640,000 were bracelets – the brand’s absolute must- haves – 290,000 were rings and the remainder were necklaces, earrings, genuine and synthetic leathers. Exactly, genuine and synthetic leathers, those colored elements that, in a second, provide the now famous color interchangeability between one item and another: remove the leather, turn it over or switch it with another piece, et voilà, the jewelry item goes perfectly with the outfit of the moment. An almost too easy game that is not so simple to create technically.
To understand the now acclaimed potential of the project and product, I went to the Les Georgettes by Altesse corner inside Printemps Haussmann, and then to the boutique in rue de Sévigné, where I discovered a practically endless range of accessories, models, metal finishings, designs and, of course, genuine and synthetic leathers in every shade and form. But that was not enough…..
We head towards Valence, in the south of France, and then on to the Ardèche. Our destination is Saint-Martin-de-Valamas, a handful of houses in a rather narrow gully crossed by that river which, just a little further downstream, is responsible for forming the famous Ardéche Gorges, a popular port of call for trekking and climbing enthusiasts. The village is all there, in a few hundred meters. There is not one family here that has not been involved with Altesse since 1905. House and workshop, you could say, but, now more than ever, with a horizon that stretches far beyond these mountains. Many of the group’s 350 employees work here in the various production departments where the raw product goes in and the ready-to-wear bijoux comes out. I stop in front of one machine. The technician, with 25 years’ experience in the company, proudly explains how his job is the most delicate of the entire “Georgettes” production process – the shaping and fixing of the two “restraints” that block the interchangeable leather strips. They must be precise, without the slightest defect. The machine itself, which mixes manual and mechanical processes, is patented and one of its kind in the world. “No photos, please!”. Next come the various galvanization and cleaning phases, in a constant up and down of future bijoux in tanks where gold and silver solutions cover the metal soul, transforming it into finished jewelry items.
A few minutes later we arrived at the company’s logistic center. One detail immediately strikes the eye: this sector is totally organized and managed by women who precisely and rapidly deal with every type of order. Rings, necklaces, bracelets, bags, with or without decorative appliques, with or without interchangeable genuine or synthetic leather elements. Thousands of combinations, all at hand. Ready to be sent to and displayed at Printemps in Paris or at the Brian & Barry Building in Milan or any of the other 46 corners worldwide.