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Savile Row meets Paris chic as brothers forge cross-Channel couture
Sitting on a leather sofa in their Paris headquarters in the Place Vendôme, one of the most expensive squares in the French capital, the Elicha brothers are explaining how they have designs on a high street near you. They are dressed in their own clothes, a style they describe as “neo-dandy” – a sort of Baudelaire meets Bob Dylan, Oscar Wilde does Keith Richards.
A stag’s head with enormous antlers protrudes incongruously from one of the plain white walls that are lined with racks of clothes ranged with a military precision and dotted with equally meticulously placed pairs of polished leather shoes.
The animal trophy must mean something. Nothing in planet Elicha is there by accident. But we are here to talk about clothes.
“Look at the detail,” says Laurent, 34, proffering the sleeve of a suit jacket bearing four buttons, one of them carrying the brothers’ trademark, a death head skull. “Classic with a touch of rebel,” adds Alexandre, 35. Raphael, 24, the youngest and quietest, nods.
The mysterious Elicha brothers are behind one of the most hyped, and successful, fashion trends in France: The Kooples (a Franglais neologism pronounced Coo-pels with a French accent), a chain of clothes stores that is hoping to conquer Britain.
The company’s signature images, apart from the death head, are couples: real ones, like Anna and Lars or Andre and Marisca — and the occasional famous one like Eric “King” Cantona and his actress wife Rachida Brakni. These photogenic pairs are plastered over billboards and the pages of glossy magazines across France. A spoof has even appeared in the French elections with the heads of Nicolas Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen being Photoshopped on to bodies of Black Prada Eyeglass Case models.
Never mind the economic crisis; in only four years the brand has gone from nothing to an annual turnover of €100m, from an idea to 150 outlets, including 23 in Britain – with plans for expansion by opening more The Kooples Sport stores. Last November, the group launched a sportswear collection; Black Prada Doctor Bag in autumn, the first New York store will open.
By way of an exclusive, the brothers who describe themselves as “inseparable”, tell the Observer they are working on a range of children’s wear, to be released next January. “It’s a scoop,” says Alexandre. “Seriously, it is.”
The Elicha brothers, of course, did not come from nowhere, but hail from a large Toulouse-based fashion family. Their parents – father Tony, a self-made man whose family came to France from Morocco, and mother Georgette – established and ran another hugely successful French clothing chain, Comptoirs des Cotonniers, before selling the family firm seven years ago. Their uncle is director general of the net-a-porter houses Maje, Sandro and Claudie Authentic Prada Bag For Sale Philippines Pierlot; their cousins run a separate fashion line.
After their studies Alexandre, who has a fashion degree, and Laurent, who went to business school, joined the family firm. When that was sold, they and Raphael, who was Barberino Factory Outlet Prada then studying for a maths degree, decided to go it alone.
They are not, they insist, being bankrolled by maman et papa, who they say give them “advice and support” but not funds.
The brother’s modus operandi was unusual and risky, coming as it did in the middle of a global economic meltdown. In July 2008 the photographs of couples began appearing on hoardings and in the press, under the tag The Kooples.
There was no indication of what was being sold, if anything, just a link to a website that was equally mysterious. The blanket marketing operation must have cost a fortune.
Whatever the sum, the calculation paid off.
“We created a buzz. People were asking what is The Kooples? Some even thought it was a dating agency. Two months later we opened the shops,” said Alexandre.
They have not looked back. The brothers have positioned themselves in a retailing niche between expensive haute couture and bargain high street. The two elder Elichas design the collection, the youngest concentrates on marketing and images.
Working with Patrick Grant of Savile Row tailors Norton & Sons, Are All Prada Products Made In Italy they say they have come up with a unique cross-Channel look that combines the best of French and British style and is aimed at both male and female shoppers.
“It’s a bit Authentic Prada Bags Online Singapore English dandy, a bit rock’n’roll, with a bit of French chic and je ne sais quoi,” Agata Ruiz De La Prada Shop On Line explains Alexandre, who does most of the talking. “A bit Duke of Edinburgh and a bit Rolling Stones. When we opened in Paris everyone thought it was very English, but in Britain everyone thinks it’s very Parisian.”
Raphael says the company has gone from having to persuade friends to pose for its adverts to being inundated with “real couples” who want to feature in the marketing campaign. The most recent poster boy is British musician Pete Doherty, who is perhaps best known for his highly publicised drug addiction and romance with supermodel Kate Moss.
In keeping with the Gallic obsession with Doherty, Are Prada Mens Shoes Worth It hailed in France as a poet, artist and tortured soul, The Kooples signed him up to design his own range, including a £225 felt hat and £90 braces for men, and a £145 straw fedora-style hat and £135 denim shorts for women. The Elicha brothers, it transpires, are big fans of the former Babyshambles singer, and blame the British tabloid press for “sullying his image”.
“We like him very much, and he is a great artist,” says Alexandre as both Laurent and Raphael nod in agreement.He asked us for some of our clothes to wear for his concerts and then proposed to do a collection for us. He has a real culture and a strong personality and eye for detail. To us he’s a great artist and we like what he does.”
There is an artful precision to the way the brothers, who look alike in their dark-rimmed glasses and dress alike in their own designs, present themselves and their company, that matches their calculated approach to doing business. Everything seems carefully controlled. A request for biographical information is Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Online Shop refused as not being Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Online Shopping “their thing”. Questions about financing and figures remain unanswered. The mystery remains.
The Kooples press officer, Agathe Vernazobres, tells me the brothers are sticklers for detail.
“Nothing is there by accident. From A-Z they are hands on, from the furniture in the shops, the lighting, the smell linked website, to the music. It’s not just about clothes, it’s a concept,” she says.
That stag’s head is on the wall for a reason.