The time to say goodbye has not yet come for Naf Naf. The Bobigny commercial court (Seine-Saint-Denis) decided this Wednesday to extend the observation period for the company, in receivership since September, Le Figaro learned from a union source. The judges estimated that its owner, the Turkish group SY Corporate, had “sufficient financing capacity” to continue the legal recovery of the brand until September 2024 and thus avoid its immediate liquidation.

In recent months, Naf Naf had begun a slimming course by announcing the closure of 17 stores, as part of a new social plan threatening nearly 90 jobs in stores and 30 at headquarters. The company’s management had cited a “series of headwinds” to explain its bad luck. “Faced with this extreme context, which affects the textile industry, New Naf Naf is no longer able to assume the payment of its debts alone,” argued the company in a press release. “Unfair competition” and “questionable means of production” of global fast-fashion giants (Shein, H

Also read: Le Figaro editorial: “The second death of French textiles”

Like many other French brands (Pimkie, Gap France, Don’t Call me Jennyfer…) Naf Naf will therefore have lost its feathers in this year 2023, “black” for the ready-to-wear sector. Coincidence or irony of the calendar, this vintage was to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the brand, founded in 1973 by the Pariente brothers. It was in the Sentier, surrounded by other budding entrepreneurs (Alain and Léon Nadélian, Jacques Nataf…), that Patrick and Gérard Pariente opened their first store, called “Naphtaline”. Next will come the logo – a pink pig – and the first designer collection. For success, we had to wait until 1983 and a famous “ready-to-dye jumpsuit” in cotton canvas. Stamped with the brand’s logo, the piece is an unexpected hit with customers, especially younger ones. The Pariente brothers thus signed one of the greatest success stories of the 80s. “At the beginning, I did not consider myself a creator. Then, when I realized that I was selling more than them, I told myself that I was bringing something new,” said Gérard Pariente to the France 2 news.

Over the years, “the big bad look” – the brand’s slogan – has become permanently anchored in the French fashion landscape. Its mid-range positioning fully corresponds to the expectations of a clientele who are discovering what will become “fast fashion”, as well as “pleasure shopping”. In most city centers, the breakthrough of Zara and H

However, the tide is turning, at the dawn of the 2010s, as competition with international giants intensifies. This is the time when the Swede H

Also read: Camaïeu, Pimkie, Burton… The endless falling of the curtain on ready-to-wear brands

The storm is severe and Naf Naf is not in the best flagship to face it. The Vivarte group, which then also owned Caroll, Minelli and Kookai, was overwhelmed by debt (2.8 billion euros in receivables in 2018). The worse economic situation reveals years of underinvestment, particularly in digital. In 2018, the group began its dismantling. The Pariente brothers’ brand then joined the Chinese consortium La Chapelle. The new shareholder has only one word on his mind: to expand the network of stores. 500 points of sale in China, 30 own stores in Europe…The strategy is ambitious, but outdated. “Efforts have been insufficient in terms of artistic direction and also in terms of investments, whether in logistics or in e-commerce,” believes Thomas Graffagnino. All this has widened the gap with international brands.

The Chinese consortium’s projects will remain wishful thinking. Whatever. With its 243 stores (2019) and its “made in Asia” supply, Naf Naf is bearing the brunt of the health crisis which began in March 2020. On May 15, Naf Naf was placed in receivership. The nugget of the Sentier can still count on an honorable turnover (200 million euros) and a certain notoriety to attract buyers. The match is ultimately played between two finalists: the Malo group Beaumanoir – owner of Caroll and Morgan – and SY, led by the Franco-Turkish businessman Selçuk Yilmaz.

The preference of the Bobigny commercial court is for the second offer, which is also favored by the management of Naf Naf. In addition to being socially better, the Franco-Turkish proposal is also more convincing on paper: owner of a factory in the Euromed zone, the businessman offers to control the entire chain, from purchase of textiles for physical sale. This time again, Naf Naf is out of luck: this relocation of production to the borders of Europe comes at the very moment when other players also decide to move their manufacturing plants closer to their sales locations. As a result, the prices of clothing and materials are increasing in the region. “We had to pass on an increase of around 10% in sales prices,” admitted Luc Mory, former CEO of the brand in March 2023.

Prices, always prices. For Thomas Graffagnigno, this is the eternal pitfall of the brand. “Naf Naf has not been able to find a relevant positioning in the new fashion market,” sighs the expert. It has neither the attractive price of an ultra low cost, like SheIn, nor the premium legitimacy of trend-setting international brands like Zara. Not trendy enough, a little aging: the owner of Naf Naf – or his potential buyer – will have his work cut out to restore the image of the fifty-year-old brand. In the immediate future, the brand’s unions hope above all that the company will remedy the persistent delays in the payment of salaries and compensation to dismissed employees…