D2 in France (part 2): “Les banlieues”

L’ascenseur social étant en panne, seule une minorité de jeunes de banlieue, quantitativement marginale, arrive à s’en sortir : elle change de classe sociale et souvent, elle déménage de la banlieue pauvre. Le cocktail de cette réussite mélange la détermination, le talent, beaucoup de travail, et parfois la chance d’un «piston». Symétriquement, seule une minorité, encore plus marginale, vit de trafics divers et de contrebande ; une minorité plus marginale encore bascule, elle, dans l’adhésion au totalitarisme wahhabite ou salafiste. Mais pour l’écrasante majorité, pour le gros des troupes, la réalité, c’est une galère de jeune pauvre urbain qui vivote et ne sortira pas du ghetto : 6 sur 10 avec un job mal payé et précaire ; 4 sur 10 au chômage.” 

Thomas Guénolé, Les jeunes de banlieue mangent-ils les enfants? Editions Le bord de l’eau


The second Paris store is closing down. We saw it coming in this post: Second Paris boutique

There is still one official D2 store left in Paris, plus corners in department stores, as well as a couple of multi-brand stores and an outlet. We asked ourselves: who buys Dsquared2 in the French capital? To answer that, we need to tell you a bit about the French context of fashion brands.

The Lacoste story

Let’s start with an iconic French brand, Lacoste. You would think that wearing a crocodile upon your chest is prestigious anywhere in the world? Anywhere…but in France.

True, the label was originally worn by well-off descendants of the “old France”, which was indigenous, Catholic, Gaullist, and often BCBG (“Bon chic bon genre”, coined expression which translate in spirit rather than literally into “respectable and stylish”).

A Lacoste wearing Valerie Lemercier as the ultimate BCBG aristocrat in the film “Les visiteurs” (1993), directed by Jean-Marie Poiré
However since the 1980’s, the brand has been appropriated by a very different section of French society,that the French call “les jeunes de cités”, “les jeunes de banlieue” or simply “les cités”/”la banlieue”. The full expression translates into “youths from the flats/suburbs”. 

These expressions in reality typically refer to suburban males in their teens and  twenties, from the lesser privileged classes of French society. Many would have been be born in France of immigrant parents, or nowadays would even be third generation immigrants; these parents/grand-parents would often have come from North Africa (Algeria, Tunisa, Morocco) and West Africa (Senegal, Ivory coast…); all crammed into massive tower style blocks (some will say ghettoes) made available cheaply by the local authorities to house the influx of foreign workers that came to France to rebuild the country after the destructions of the second world war. For reasons that are well beyond our remit to try and explain, the children of these migrants would not always have been -and felt – included into French society. High levels of school breakdown and delinquency became commonplace in the “banlieues.”

Typical “cité” found in the suburbs of French cities
With the arrival of hip-hop in the mid 80’s, urban gangs made up of those second generation kids started to really care about their clothes. Despite adopting a silhouette that had nothing to do with the sons and daughters of the “old France”, they actually started to wear some of its most cherished brands. And Lacoste was one of the most popular ones.

In that decade (long before the “going to fight in Syria” phenomenon), if you were a French Algerian or Moroccan teenager, the best way to look powerful and get the girls was to wear the crocodile brand.

So much so that the label lost some of its cachet in the eyes of those associating it with what they considered to be mere “racaille” (a highly controversial term – once infamously used by president Sarkozy) roughly equivalent to riffraff).

Rioting in the banlieues….in Lacoste
 Is Dsquared2 the new Lacoste?This generation has had kids since, and these new teenagers’ attachment to brands has anything but waned; in fact it has become even more ostentatious, by opting for labels that don’t just have a name, but also cost a lot of money in relative terms, when you are an unemployed 20 year old.

Unemployed because social inclusion is mere wishful thinking in the suburbs of big cities. This is the way French society is. Highly stratified, compartmented, heterogenous, with sub-groups that at best ignore eachother, but can also resent one another. Yet the ones considered less fortunate tend to copy some of the social codes of the upper classes, and shop on the same territory.

Sociologists have tried to explain this phenomenon using concepts like “quest for identity affirmation”, “status consumption”, “inverted snobism”…Again, discussing this is not our purpose.

If you want proof of what I am telling you though, must Visit a Dolce&Gabbanna, a Dior Homme, a Gucci shop in Rome, in Madrid, in Munich…and then visit the equivalent in Paris. You will be surprised to see the difference in its clientele.

Note that it is not the “epi” leather of Vuitton that is the style of choice here. It is the monogram. It is not the velvet D&G jacket, it is the hoodie with the label plaque. It is not a Gucci shirt, it is a black, green and red baseball cap. Note that these items are often influenced by the American urban wear; the hip-hop connection is undeniable. And the more ostentatious, the better.

Well, it is not like Dsquared2 lacks highly discernable elements like logos, tags, street gear, hoodies, baseball caps…

And this is why our favourite label is becoming the brand of choice for many French youths who, due to this lack of social inclusion we have alluded to, have sometimes been associated with delinquency, rioting…sometimes even supporting IS in Syria.

I am trying not to judge, these guys need to dream too, and the subconscious drive that makes them buy a branded t-shirt is probably quite similar as mine. However it is hard for fashionistas to identify or feel any connection with some of the guys we see posing for photos on Instagram, wearing D2 sportswear head to toe, looking all gang-like and threatening, often making this gesture the meaning of which is still unclear to us: holding the two fingers as the British would do to say F…off, but the arm held horizontally accross the body.

The aforementionned gesture…across a D2 t-shirt
 What’s in for the brand?

I just thought that the Lacoste story was interesting, because for the Caten brothers presence in France there are are least two conceivable scenarios:

  • D2 could lose out financially as the traditional customer (gay and fashion people) might no longer want to be seen with the same highly visible labels as delinquents you see rioting on the 8pm news. It has been said that in the UK, Tommy Hilfiger and Burberrys lost out considerably when troublemakers and unemployed youths started ostensibly wearing them.
Sasha Baron Cohen as Ali G…with Tommy headwear
  • D2 could make a financial killing by embracing this new fanbase, and selling as many big logo hoodies as possible. Some brands have actually capitalised on the hip-hop connection and saw the new customer as an ally. Lacoste ended up doing just that.
    Hip-hop legends Grand Master Flash promoting Lacoste fragrances
    In the end what probably will end up happening is a distribution of the range of items produced by D2 amongst the various social categories: baseball caps, 551 sneakers, hoodies for some, double-breasted suit, derbies and shirts for others, and catwalk pieces, jockstraps and leather pants in some areas.

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3 comments

  1. Thank you for your thoughts, i’m sharing the same strange feeling that D2 is making the same mistake like D&G did… selling cheap items with a huge brand logo on… this will back off longterm customers link i am, wearing D2 since over 15years. It’s getting harder and harder to find D2 items without a omnipresent visible labeling, i hate it. In my opinion, if they carry on as doing now, they’ll make much money now, but that will be over in a few years and the brand is dead and totally uncool…

    Like

    • Thanks for your very interesting contribution Burrows! I have talked to several long term customers who say exactly the same…

      BTW If you want to be in the photo gallery (Canadian Tuxedo friends) just send us a photo through Instagram

      All the best!

      Like

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