Yves Salomon, a quiet spoken creator of quiet luxury, doesn’t like to boast, but his eponymously named marque is enjoying an incredible spurt of growth in our new era of understated elegance.
Historically, France’s most technically-advanced fur marque, Yves Salomon has hit a sweet spot by developing new product categories like ski sports and footwear and cultivating a rapidly growing new market in menswear.
In October, Yves Salomon debuted its first fully dedicated menswear, mineral-hued shop-in-shop inside Le Bon Marché, located amid cool brands like Loewe, Isabel Marant and Acne. While in London, the brand sells menswear in Harrods. Menswear already represents 15% of total sales. Yves’ target is to reach 30% within three years.
“Initially, we moved into menswear because a lot of men started buying women’s fur-lined parkas. That lead to a few size and sleeve length issues,” Yves chuckles over coffee in company headquarters.
The fur-lined parka, in fox or mink, is arguably, the brand’s signature look – and an item beloved by pretty much ever French fashion editor.
“The strange thing is that men love fur. Plus, men are not scared to wear it in the current mood. You could even see that in Pharrell’s first show for Vuitton. There were fur coats on Pont Neuf! There are none in women’s shows right now,” he notes, recalling the musician’s debut for LV in June.
“In the past six years we have decided to move from a fur brand to a luxury brand. Now ready-to-wear makes up the majority of our turnover,” enthuses Salomon, who now offers a full silhouette in cashmere, silk or leather – including shearling and full fur garments.
A change that has been appreciated by consumers. Sales had dipped sharply in the pandemic to €35 million but have bounced back sharply. This year turnover increased 15% in the first three quarters, with annual sales breaching €50 million. Out of that – e-commerce is the fastest growing element. It has raced ahead 65% this year and now accounts for almost 20% of total business.
Besides the brand’s own website, Yves Salomon e-tails with major e-commerce players like website Mytheresa, Net-a-Porter, Matches and 24S. Internationally, the brand’s two true flagships are in Paris on rue St Honoré and in London – their biggest with 150 square-meters – on Conduit Street.
In terms of clothing, best sellers are cashmere coats, shearling, leather pants or skirts and down jackets. Online, the average price point is €1,200 but in bricks and mortar retail stores the price point doubles to about €2,500.
Hence, in a moment of quiet luxury, Yves Salomon whispers happily.
“By nature, not by marketing decision, we are quiet luxury. We are not a fashion house; but a luxury house with lots of know-how, craftmanship and special skills. And we try to apply all that R&D to our new products,” he insists.
The third generation of furriers dating back to the 1920s in Paris, Yves debuted his first line after meeting Thierry Mugler.
“Thierry asked me to make a fur collection for him – and we launched each of us simultaneously in Galeries Lafayette in 1980. In the beginning I wanted to call the brand Salomon – but there was that sports brands already!” he laughs.
Yves has had a long love affair with fashion, working with great designers, as one can easily appreciate in a trip through the company archives. Jean-Paul Gaultier is represented by fab’ fantasy fox fur screen goddess coats; or some superlative Geisha rock star redingotes made in chinoiserie silk and mink. Karl Lagerfeld’s signature brand expressionism is seen in Stasi chic spy coats, blending snakeskin and astrakhan; Alexander McQueen’s posh punk in gothic silver fox riffing on the Spencer Davis group. All the way to the present, though non-discloure agreements preventing from revealing whom exactly.
He has also revolutionized techniques like a coat weighing 3 kilos reduced to one kilo. Devising fur knitting, re-inventing fur intarsia; and attaching fine furs – like sable or chinchilla – to organza. A discreet but proud Frenchman, whom if you put him on the spot, would agree with the widely held proposition in Paris that he is probably the best furrier in the world.
Today the company is based on four key elements – beginning with women’s wear, where this season’s winter collection already has 50% sell-through. Then, menswear, which Yves first developed in 2015 with fur lined army parka jackets, and luxury shearling. Later adding nylon raincoats and down jackets, to build out a complete wardrobe.
The third key element is its ski line, beginning with women last year and now menswear. On Monday, December 4, Yves will open a huge two-month-long pop-up in Selfridges. Adding to the marque’s three ski-directed stores in Courchevel, Aspen and Megève, where Yves likes to ski.
“And, strangely enough, there is a huge demand in China. They want to launch a lot of ski resorts. Even around Beijing – they are planning 50 of them – in the Chinese way!” chuckles Yves in admiration.
Out East, Yves Salomon has been very busy – opening four stores with skiwear corners with Lane Crawford – in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu. Again, his price is luxe, €1,000 for a ski jacket, €300 for pants.
The fourth element, its key skill, is fur. In 2018, Yves Salomon introduced a recycled initiative, inventing coats from fur offcuts and reclaimed materials. It also focused on traceability and environmental responsibility, by boycotting ethically non-compliant fur farms, and collaborating with small traditional communities for whom fur is an essential livelihood.
“Recycling is not yet significant in terms of sales – but a permanent commitment, and an idea we hope to make the industry realize is essential,” argues Yves, much of whose production is still based in Paris, where over 100 craftspeople work in ateliers in the 10th arrondissement, the historic center of French fur production – guaranteeing transition to the next generation. Including his son Thomas, who is the general manager.
Internationally, Yves Salomon boasts 13 fully owned stores, and three “winter stores,” a burgeoning website and some 350 sales points worldwide. Yves still believes in the department store concept, but even more so in e-commerce.
“Being a very small brand, we cannot open scores of freestanding stores. But, with e-commerce we also get much bigger exposure,” he says.
In the past half decade global production of quality furs has declined precipitously, in part due to animal rights campaigns, but also because during Covid furs turned out to be highly susceptible to Human-mink infection, sparking fears of new strains of coronavirus immune to vaccines. As a result, fur farming was phased out or banned in many countries, most significantly in Denmark – the world’s largest mink producer – even if Scandinavia and Poland have taken up much of the slack.
“Yes, worldwide production is really in decline, and we are happy for that as we want fur to be exclusive. We don’t want it to be a mass production product. You see, our business has been helped by two factors – the return of 70s fashion and the fact that many young people are buying fur in flea markets and wearing it. Second hand is recycling!” insists Yves.
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