Located on the banks of the Seine, a few kilometers from the spiers of the Rouen Cathedral, the warehouse flanked by a sign that has seen better days does not suggest the cave of Ali Baba that it contains. Inside, bundles of clothes as far as the eye can see, arranged by family and by color: Levis 501, velvet trousers, Irish jumpers, striped blouses… Farther on, miles of racks support freedom skirts here, denim jackets elsewhere.
And wherever workers who repair, sort or classify with the dexterity of a goldsmith can distinguish, print polyester silk in seconds hype of that which has gone out of fashion, the quality of all newcomers. Welcome to the den of Eureka Fripes, flagship of the DB Invest group (42 million turnover – 300 employees), a pioneer in second-hand clothing founded in 1974 and who wants to provide a cure for the all-consumption from there “fast fashion” (short-lived fashion).
“Antique clothing dealers”
If it doesn’t look like much, the place is visited by the whole world. Stylists, German or Brazilian designers, Hollywood costume designers, British retailers or special envoys of major brands know their way to this temple of the circular economy whose leaders like to present themselves as ” antique dealers “About two-thirds of the fifty tons of textiles that arrive here every week go abroad.
Depots like that of Rouen DB invest has four more: in Australia, Japan and the US (Los Angeles and New York). In total, the group claims a stock of 16 million items” of all genres and eras » some dating back to the 1920s. Because fashion is an eternal innovation, this unrivaled resource gives it an edge, explains Eric Rey, Commercial Director.
† Experience has taught us that you have to be ready to take off 10,000 high-waisted jeans when they come back into fashion, as they do now. This is also the reason why we have been buying velvet for years. Rightly so, because it is praised again †
A story of flair
Knows how to spot promising pieces. Eureka owes its longevity to this know-how, which cannot be learned in schools. The buyers scour the factories of collectors around the world in search of bargains, led by Bernard Graf, the founder. † An avant-garde visionary who has always been able to sniff trends “, his teams say. The man is just leaving with some of his buyers. To India where he has to give sorting instructions to his suppliers. Stripes or flowers, cotton or synthetic fur: the order is accurate.
Internally, the boss is known for his intuition. His secret weapon? An encyclopedic knowledge of fashion, a network of hardened steel suppliers, the result of nearly half a century of collaboration. † I blew them all on my knees ‘ laughs the interested person. And the nose of a bloodhound. † Here I have a good control tower that allows me to see what attracts creators, he says† But I also often sit on the terrace to breathe in the zeitgeist †
Vintage is well established
To sell his merchandise, Bernard Graf’s company is spoiled for choice. In addition to the customers of its depots, it has its own network of stores: the historic Killiwatch in the Halles district of Paris, opened in 1985, the approximately twenty Kiloshop brands (in France, Greece and Japan) that it aims to double the number within three years as well as the Hippy Market network, specializing in the 60s and 70s.
In recent years, it also interferes with the top of the range thanks to the enthusiasm of consumer actors for the already worn. Created in 2009, the brand ofupcycling (recycling) Culture Vintage has thus entered the BHV Marais and the 45 “corners” of Galeries Lafayette devoted to second-hand clothing. † These are, for example, shirts that have been converted into shoulder bags, jeans that are recycled into shorts or jackets with a new cut. Eric Rey says.
DB Invest’s winning strategy can pay off. According to the American resale platform thredUP*, the global second-hand clothing market will surpass that of fast fashion by 2030.
*Data taken from the “2021 Resale Report” by thredUP