Every Wednesday, Yahoo invites you to learn more about a company. Little secrets, anecdotes, unusual stories, don’t miss the chance to impress your friends. For this 98th episode, zoom in on an emblematic brand of children’s wardrobes: Petit Bateau.
1 – The inventor of modern underwear
More than a century after its invention, it is (almost) ageless. The panty, designed by Petit Bateau in 1918, celebrates its 122nd anniversary this year. 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 specializing in underwear in Troyes since 1893.
Listening to his wife hum the nursery rhyme “Mommy, do the little boats that go on the water have legs?” rude With this revolutionary cut, the son of the founder of Petit Bateau signed the birth certificate of cotton panties that are more comfortable to wear, without legs or buttons and with an elastic waist.
A few years earlier in 1912, André, Xavier and Etienne, the sons of Pierre Valton, had already thought of replacing woolen underwear with washable white cotton. In 1920, the company was named Petit Bateau in reference to the famous nursery rhyme. So the Valton family wants to offer panties and knitwear for the whole family.
Thanks to the panties, the company enjoyed a booming success from the end of the First World War. Between 1921 and 1930, thirty million copies of “little panties” were sold. In 1937, the garment that became iconic received the Grand Prize for Innovation at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. Encouraged by this success, the company continues to innovate and imagine new products: “whiter than white” t-shirts, the American armhole that allows the child to easily wear a bodysuit, pajamas with terry cloth or even the first bodysuit that offered snaps on the crotch in 1980. From the 1970s, Petit Bateau, heavily in debt, began to reduce it due to competition and especially the rise of subcontracting international.
2 – He almost disappeared in 1988
Without Yves Rocher, Petit Bateau might not exist today. In 1988, the French beauty giant saw the disastrous financial situation of the Trojan company and bought it for 100 million francs (about 15 million euros) on the advice of its banker at the time, BNP and its subsidiary investment banking, Banexi. The purchase price of “more than 40%” will cause trouble 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. How? “He sacrificed several hundred jobs, but kept the factory in Troyes. At the same time, he opened workshops in Marrakech, which still provide almost 85% of production today”, explains Capital in 2018. Also introduced the group’s Petit Bateau clothing in supermarkets to increase sales. A successful strategy.
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To rise, the children’s fashion brand also received a big boost. In 1994, the king of the catwalks Karl Lagarfeld paraded the model Claudia Schiffer with a white Petit Bateau t-shirt under her Chanel suit. The brand became fashionable and everyone took the famous item of clothing. Sales increased by ten in three years and the brand invited itself to the adult department of Printemps Haussmann, in Paris.
The opening, in 2000, of a boutique on the Champs-Élysées marked its revival although children remained its main target. The adult offer that “represents only 15% of our turnover”, introduced the CEO of the brand in 2018. Despite this, Petit Bateau claims a network of 400 stores so far scattered throughout France but also in London , Berlin, Milan, Tokyo or even. Shanghai.
3 – Pinned at UFC-Que Choisir in 2013
All brands want to get away with it, but few of them have flown under the radar of UFC-Que Choisir. Less than ten years ago, in 2013, Petit Bateau drew the ire of the Federal Consumers Union for an alleged lack of transparency. In a vitriolic article titled “A brand is leading us by boat”, UFC-Que Choisir lamented that the brand, more than a century old, is playing the made in France card to bait the barge and not clearly shows the place of manufacture of his clothes.. “Some brands have become masters of the art of making people believe that all their goods come from factories located in our land when they are not is the case. Among them, Petit Bateau breaks records for ambiguity “, writes UFC -What to choose. Of the ten Petit Bateau items, only two are made in France. Since these accusations, the brand has promised to be more transparent and responsible with its labels.
4 – His advertisements made him famous
Very early on, Petit Bateau understood the importance of investing in advertising to distinguish itself and create a unique bond with its customers. First, the character of Marinette, conceived by the English illustrator Beatrice Mallet in the early 1920s, became the brand’s flagship. Her image of a funny and chubby little girl is shown in all media and in all media to praise the qualities of the Trojan company.
From the 1960s, Marinette gave the children posters. The 1990s and 2000s saw the appearance of television commercials featuring mischievous and supercharged children. In Jacques Dutronc’s famous music “Don’t do this, don’t do that”, the children are filmed chaining things that are useless wearing brand clothes. The spot ends with this slogan “What’s the point of imagining clothes if you can’t do anything with them… Petit Bateau”. An ad that marked an entire generation.
5 – The ridiculous controversy of “anti-radiation” clothing
No company, even the best, can escape controversy. Petit Bateau is no exception to the rule. In 2019, the Trojan brand launched a hat and a blanket to protect children “against the waves of everyday life”. An initiative that is far from unanimous among parents, far from it.
“WiFi is harmful, isn’t it? And your coverage should protect, or scare young parents?”, “The petitbateau brand is immersed in obscurantism and the exploitation of baseless fears? Please, please, tell me that this image is not real or that. it’s a mistake”, Internet users were outraged in tweets found by TF1 Info.
Attacked from all sides, the brand defends itself and promotes the principle of caution: “Studies show that daily exposure to waves, especially during pregnancy and early childhood, can have impact on the child’s development. We offer a solution for people who want to use the principles of precaution (ANSES recommendation[nationalahensyasaseguridadsakahimsognotasaeditor)”[agencenationaledesécuritéssanitairendlr)”[nasyonalngaahensyasaseguridadsakahimsognotasaeditor)”[agencenationaledesécuritésanitairendlr)”
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