After Pimkie, André and Kookaï, it is the turn of this century-old French brand to be in danger

After Pimkie Andre and Kookai it is the turn of

A new hexagonal label has been placed in receivership. This time it is a renowned underwear brand.

After ready-to-wear (Kookaï, Jennyfer, Naf Naf, etc.) and shoes (San Marina, Minelli, André, etc.), the underwear market is suffering. According to figures published by Kantar, the sector’s results, brought to 2.12 billion euros for the first 9 months of 2023, are down 1.8% compared to the previous year. A setback which certainly explains the difficulties that Maison Lejaby is experiencing. The underwear brand was placed in receivership on January 2, 2024 by the Lyon commercial court.

A story made in France

This is not the first time that Maison Lejaby has gone through a period of turmoil. However, its history begins more than 100 years ago. In 1884, Louis Neyron and Doctor Rasurel launched a brand of underwear for men and women, produced by factories in Lyon. Half a century later, a certain Gabrielle began to imagine lingerie that her brother-in-law Marcel Blanchard had manufactured on a large scale. In the region, these underwear are nicknamed “La Gaby’s bras”. Lejaby was born and prospered until 1966, when the company bought Rasurel, which specialized in swimwear. Narrative ellipse. In 1996, Lejaby was a major manufacturer in the world of French lingerie. The company and its 1,100 employees then aroused the desire of the American Warnaco, which paid 400 million francs (around 61 million euros) to purchase it. The idyll was short-lived, since in 2008, the company was sold to the Austrian group Palmers for 45 million euros. For Lejaby employees, the trouble is about to begin.

Workers demonstrate in front of the headquarters of Maison Lejaby in Rillieux-la-Pape on April 12, 2010 © Dargent Vincent/ABACA

Factory closures and layoffs

1er April 2010, the press announced the closure of three quarters of French production factories and the dismissal of almost a third of Lejaby’s workforce. The workers decide not to give in and occupy the brand’s factories to warn of the relocations. A year later, the disaster scenario continues, and the company is placed in receivership. It was Alain Prost who seized it in 2012, at the cost of 255 additional layoffs and the closure of the Lejaby factory in Yssingeaux. In the process, he named the label Maison Lejaby to move upmarket. However, two years later, he sold the majority of the capital to the Impala fund, which lost a third of the workforce before selling the company in 2019 to two businessmen, Stéphane Collaert and Thierry Le Guénic. It is the latter who now runs the company, via his company Triangle International Invest. Over the years, this clothing specialist has built up – alone or with Stéphane Collaert – a substantial portfolio of brands. Ready-to-wear with Paule Ka and Burton of London (in receivership since June 2023), lingerie with Chantal Thomass and Orcanta (in receivership since June 2023), shoes with CosmoParis and San Marina (liquidated in February 2023), and finally the art of living with Habitat (liquidated in December 2023).

Maison Lejaby’s 130th anniversary celebrated with a ballet in 2014 © Marechal Aurore/ABACA

For “preserve its future activity”

For Maison Lejaby, there is still hope. “In order to preserve its future activity, faced with an operating debt mainly generated during the Covid period, Maison Lejaby requested the commercial court to go into receivership”, wrote Thierry Le Guénic to his employees in an internal press release consulted by AFP. The objective pursued? “Giving the opportunity to Maison Lejaby and its employees to accelerate the transformations undertaken towards a move upmarket, a greater international and digital presence”, he then detailed. The next few weeks will be decisive for the company, since a six-month observation period has been decided by the Lyon commercial court. At stake is the future of two stores, located in Paris and Lyon, and the fate of 55 employees. Olivier David, CFDT representative of the company, specified during the bankruptcy procedure: “There are no job cuts announced”.

It should be remembered that this type of procedure is not always synonymous with the end of the activity. After the observation period, which will allow the Lyon commercial court to take stock of Maison Lejaby’s assets, income and debts in order to estimate its viability, three scenarios will be considered. If the company’s debts are recovered, the receivership will be closed. If the court considers that the company can, by taking measures, continue its activity, a continuation plan will be put in place, including or not redundancies. Otherwise, the judicial liquidation of Maison Lejaby will be declared. A possibility that Thierry Le Guénic and his teams will do everything to avoid.