Every Wednesday Yahoo invites you to learn more about a company. Little secrets, anecdotes, unusual stories, don’t miss the opportunity to impress your friends. In this 98th installment, zoom in on an emblematic children’s wardrobe brand: Petit Bateau.
1 – The inventor of the modern panty
More than a century after its invention, it has (almost) not aged. Designed by Petit Bateau in 1918, this brief celebrates its 122nd anniversary. The emblematic product of the mythical French brand was born from a stroke of genius by Étienne, one of the sons of Pierre Valton, founder of a hosiery factory specializing in underwear in Troyes since 1893.
Listening as his wife cheekily hums the nursery rhyme, “Mom, do the little boats that go on the water have legs?” With these revolutionary scissors, the son of the founder of Petit Bateau signs the birth certificate of cotton panties much more comfortable to wear, without legs or buttons and with an elastic waistband.
A few years earlier, in 1912, André, Xavier and Etienne, Pierre Valton’s sons, had had the idea of replacing wool underwear with washable white cotton. In 1920, the company was finally named Petit Bateau, based on the famous children’s song. The Valton family therefore wants to offer panties and knitwear for the whole family.
Thanks to the knickers, the company experienced a flourishing success from the end of the First World War. Between 1921 and 1930, 30 million copies of the “pants” were sold. In 1937, the iconic garment received the Grand Prize for Innovation at the Paris World Fair. Spurred on by this success, the company continues to innovate and develop new products: “whiter than white” t-shirts, the American armhole that allows the baby to easily put on a bodysuit, pajamas with terry cloth or even the first bodysuit with snaps at the fork in 1980. From the 1970s, heavily in debt, Petit Bateau began its decline due to competition and in particular the rise of international subcontractors.
2 – She almost disappeared in 1988
Without Yves Rocher, Petit Bateau might not exist today. In 1988, the French beauty giant investigated the Trojan’s disastrous financial situation and, on the advice of its then banker BNP and its investment banking subsidiary Banexi, bought it for 100 million francs (around 15 million euros). The “40% overvalued” purchase price will cause a stir and a long legal battle between Yves Rocher and BNP.
In any case, Yves Rocher succeeded in his bet to get Petit Bateau out of the red. As ? “He sacrificed a few hundred jobs but kept the Troyes factory. At the same time, he opened workshops in Marrakech, which still account for almost 85% of production today,” explains Capital in 2018. The group also launches Petit Bateau clothes in supermarkets to boost sales. A winning strategy.
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To bounce back, the children’s fashion brand also received a big boost. In 1994, catwalk king Karl Lagarfeld presented model Claudia Schiffer wearing a white Petit Bateau t-shirt under her Chanel suit. The brand becomes trendy and everyone grabs the famous piece of clothing. Sales increase tenfold in three years and the brand invites itself to the erotic department of Printemps Haussmann in Paris.
The opening of a boutique on the Champs-Élysées in 2000 marked her revival, although children remained her main target audience. The adult offering “represents only 15% of our sales,” according to the brand’s CEO in 2018. Despite this, Petit Bateau claims a network of 400 stores, scattered to this day throughout France, but also in London, Berlin, Milan, Tokyo or even Shanghai.
3 – Pinned by UFC-Que Choisir in 2013
All brands want to get away from it, but few of them manage to stay under the radar of UFC-Que Choisir. Almost ten years ago, in 2013, Petit Bateau aroused the ire of the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations for an alleged lack of transparency. In a caustic article titled “A brand guides us by boat,” UFC Que Choisir regrets that the brand, more than a century old, is playing the “Made in France” card to bait the barge, and does not clearly state the place of manufacture of his clothing. . “Some brands have become masters at making people believe that all of their items come from factories that are on our soil, when they are not. Among them, Petit Bateau breaks records for ambiguity,” writes UFC – What to choose. Only two out of ten Petit Bateau items are made in France. Since those allegations, the brand has made a commitment to be more transparent and accountable on its labels.
4 – His advertising made him famous
Petit Bateau understood early on how important it is to invest in advertising in order to gain exposure and create a unique bond with its customers. First with the character of Marinette, created by English illustrator Beatrice Mallet in the early 1920s, which became a trademark. Her image of a laughing and chubby little girl is featured all over the media and media to praise the qualities of the Trojan company.
From the 1960s, Marinette made way for children on posters. In the 1990s and 2000s, television ads featuring mischievous and charged toddlers appear. To the famous music of Jacques Dutronc ‘Don’t Do This, Don’t Do That’, the children are filmed chaining nonsense to the brand’s clothing. The spot ends with this slogan “What’s the point of imagining clothes if you can’t do anything in them… Petit Bateau”. An advertisement that shaped an entire generation.
5 – The funny controversy about “anti-radiation” clothing
No enterprise, even the most virtuous, is spared from controversy. Petit Bateau is no exception to the rule. In 2019, the Trojan brand launched a hat and blanket designed to protect babies “from the waves of everyday life.” An initiative that is anything but unanimous among parents, far from it.
“WiFi is harmful, right? And your reporting is meant to protect young parents or freak them out?”, “The Petitbateau brand sinking into obscurantism and the exploitation of unfounded fears? Please please tell me this picture is wrong or that one is a mistake,” netizens tweeted outraged by TF1 Info spotted.
Attacked from all sides, the brand defends itself and propagates the precautionary principle: “Studies show that the daily exposure to waves, especially during pregnancy and early childhood, can have an impact on the child’s development. We offer a solution for people who wish to apply the precautionary principles (ANSES recommendation[NationalHealthSecurityAgencyAnmdRed)”[agencenationaledesécuritésanitairendlr)”[NationalHealthSecurityAgencyAnmdRed)”[agencenationaledesécuritésanitairendlr)”
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