“The Eric Bompard house has a history; it doesn’t need storytelling”
The family business Eric Bompard, a trailblazer in sustainable and responsible cashmere, has been growing since its takeover by Barbara Werschine, today CEO of the brand and former vice-chairman of Zadig & Voltaire. She explains the brand’s resilient model during the crisis.
By Thibaut Mortier04 janvier 2022
The scenario looks like a crazy business fiction, or the worst MBA or business school case imagined: “Imagine you take over a company’s management including 300 employees, and 65 boutiques. A global epidemic forces three months of lockdown. To top it all, the weather is beautiful and very warm. Ah yes! This company is the French leader of cashmere.” Unthinkable. Yet this is exactly what happened to Barbara Werschine, 47, when she left the vice-chairman position of Zadig & Voltaire, of which she ensured international retail development and profitability, to lead a sleeping beauty. “I was immediately attracted by the story of the house, its cashmere quality and its teams. Many things needed to be straightened out, the strategy, the stock management or even communications, but forty-eight hours after my arrival, the first lockdown was announced. It was a real challenge, I had to make quick and swift decisions.”
Forty-eight hours after my arrival, the first lockdown was announced. It was a real challenge, I had to make quick and swift decisions
Barbara Werschine, CEO of Eric Bompard
Agility, intuition, experience: those are the winning values. Indeed, that is where this leader’s expertise, well-known for her passion of savoir-faire and craftsmanship which she learned at Hermès, and her talent in leading teams which she developed at Louis Vuitton, paid off. “I immediately made sure our teams were cared for and protected, as well as for the company to be able to pursue its business in this unprecedented context. We had just gone through several months of yellow jackets in France and of boutique closures, we had to be out there to support and encourage salespeople and boutique directors. As well as show our clients that they could count on us.”
New strategic choices
Mister Eric Bompard really exists. He is an entrepreneur who founded the Maison at the beginning of the 80s and which the French media called “the cashmere king”
Barbara Werschine, CEO of Eric Bompard
The Bompard teams were therefore working hard to supply sales forces the necessary tools to work remote, by reorganizing logistics and stock management, by challenging old habits. Often, Barbara Werschine sent video or written messages to her teams to rally the troupes. And it worked. Eric Bompard overcame the consequences of Covid better than the market. “The figures are good, profits are there, and Bompard cashmeres are stronger than ever”, said Barbara Werschine smiling. A resilience explained by the quality of choices made over the last few years: accelerating e-commerce, implementing omnichannel sales, new brand platforms, launching a differentiating boutique concept, integrating a creative director, Carolyn Randolfi, well–known for her experience in knitwear, collaborating with contemporary artists and renewing communication campaigns. This contemporary acceleration should not however cloud the quality of the brand’s fundamentals, of which the CSR approach is written in our genes and eco-responsibility, is a pattern. Indeed, many have certainly forgotten, or never knew it, but Mister Eric Bompard really exists. He is an entrepreneur who founded the Maison at the beginning of the 80s and which the French media called “the cashmere king”.
To import raw wool: the founder’s intuition
During a trip to Asia, the man who was then head of an IT company discovered cashmere and capra arbas, a goat which lives in the high steps of Mongolia over 3,000 meters high, and of which the hair for thousands of years, would produce a soft fiber, very sought after. In 1983, only Scotland imported raw wool. Just as el gringo in the Jacques Vabre ad, Eric Bompard had the intuition of this extraordinary product and brought it back to France, thread after thread. “Back then, says Barbara Werschine, a cashmere sweater was more than a luxury object, it was something exceptional which one could get once or twice in their life. Prices were very high.” Since then, nothing has changed, or barely. The fundamentals in terms of raw material sourcing, established by Eric Bompard and his partner, M. Wang, the cashmere producer heading the Erdos group, have been at the heart of the brand’s success. Even better, Erdos ended up entering the Bompard capital, proof of the partnership’s sustainability. Now associates, the supplier had developed an increased interest in offering Eric Bompard the best cashmeres. Ethics which have always been the company’s drive, on the human as well as the environmental level, well before it became an injunction in the business world. “Eric Bompard, underlines Barbara Werschine, has always been active in sustainability, like Mister Jourdain was in prose, without even knowing it. Our values consist in respecting the suppliers, raw materials, staff and clients.”
Sustainability through traceability and innovation
The house has always been passionate about coloring techniques, spinning, or knitting and stitching
Therefore, transmission is at the heart of the Bompard cashmeres. For them to last, they are reparable, just as all true luxury objects. The house knitters maintain the clients’ favorite cashmeres, mend them, embroider them, by giving them a second life for new generations. It is difficult to find anything more sustainable. Indeed, the house which has also built its reputation around its innovations in colors, can be proud, beyond the historic traceability of its fibers, to be able to create over 2,000 colors from natural pigments and materials, since always. “Bompart means innovation, says Barbara Werschine. The house has always been passionate about coloring techniques, spinning, or knitting and stitching and wants to bring back ancient techniques. We never leave anything to chance.” The new team, which includes a new stylist Carolyn Randolfi, who has been through knitwear at the American giant Ralph Lauren, a new executive secretary, and a communications director from the luxury industry, perpetuates the house’s spirit. Over the coming years, Bompard will open new boutiques and deploy worldwide, including through a wholesale strategy. Demand is strong towards retailers, including in Europe, the USA and Asia. The history of the Bompard House has a bright future ahead of it.
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