• Placed in compulsory liquidation after nearly forty years of existence, Camaïeu closed its 514 stores on Saturday.

  • A case which could, alas, call for others, most of the mid-range textile brands in France being caught in a pincer movement between the low end and the brands of higher standing.

  • In a clothing market already in crisis, the French mid-range is paying more than ever for its bad choices. 

Saturday evening, the 514 French stores of Camaïeu closed their doors, putting 2,600 employees out of work.

The 38-year-old ready-to-wear brand had been placed in compulsory liquidation three days earlier following poor financial results.

An economic and social drama that could unfortunately call for others.

Because if Camaïeu has made its own mistakes, the company is the symbol of the structural crisis that the French clothing mid-range is going through.

What to worry about other brands?

The news is not good: in 2018, Jules launched a job protection plan, cutting 466 jobs and closing 88 stores.

Celio closed around thirty stores in 2019 and forty in 2020, the year in which the brand was placed in the safeguard procedure.

Clothing, a less and less important item

“Since the economic crisis of 2007-2008, the turnover of the clothing sector has fallen by 5% per year every year.

In times of financial difficulty for the consumer, clothing is one of the expenses that clink glasses first, because it is considered non-essential,” explains Pascale Hébel, co-director of a marketing consulting firm.

A fortiori since the coronavirus: “The health crisis has given much less importance to clothing, continues the expert.

The rise of teleworking and confinements have reduced the need to appear.

Even when we go to work, we make less effort to dress than before 2020.” Let's add the fact that the population is aging.

However, “it is the younger generations who carry the sector, completes Pascale Hébel.

The purchase peak is reached at 30 years.

After that it goes down.


Don't throw any more.

Or rather if: tell yourself that these pitfalls are amplified for the French textile mid-range, which is particularly neglected.

For Adrian Kammarti, specialist at the Institut français de la mode and professor of Art History at the University of Paris I Sorbonne, clothing has somewhat the same problem as the French car: if you want a low-cost car , you will turn to an Asian automobile.

If you want a car that throws it, you'll take a German.

Let's continue the metaphor: if you want a nice piece of clothing, you will move towards the top of the range and put 80 euros in a Lacoste polo shirt, for example.

Otherwise, you will take sub-brand, second-hand or the cheapest possible garment.

Basically, not necessarily mid-range.

Which therefore has two flaws, according to the expert: a price that is not extremely affordable and a brand that is not recognized enough to be socially valued.

“The entry level has grown a lot, has managed to combine fashion and low prices, and is no longer socially devalued.

It is not a shame to buy there, on the contrary.

Getting a good deal or buying second-hand to recycle a garment are now well-regarded acts, supports Philippe Moati, director of the Society and Consumption Observatory.

At the other end, high-end brands are increasingly competitive and have less and less excessive prices.

Added to this is the effect of an "hourglass society", he continues: "The middle class is shrinking: the lower middle class is being pulled down in terms of purchasing power, and the upper middle class upwards, leaving little room for the mid-range”.

Missed turn

As a result, “young people no longer buy new mid-range,” says Pascale Hébel.

They prefer to buy second-hand, sale or less expensive brands.

This can be seen at their expense: today's youth have a much smaller clothing budget than previous generations at the same age.

Not that our darlings are fundamentally against buying a nice sweater.

But “today, the brand has to have something more.

Made in France, an ecological, ethical commitment, recycling….

There is a demand for meaning that most French mid-range players have not grasped”.

A bitter observation shared by Pierre-Louis Desprez, associate director of Kaos Consulting, an innovation and marketing firm: “The French textile mid-range is not surfing on any of the current trends, such as sobriety or sustainable development.

These are brands that do not innovate for the most part.

“However, some are doing better than others: “Kiabi, which was the first to invest massively in the Internet, got on the right train,” notes Pascale Hébel.

International competition

For Adrian Kammarti, the French mid-range has of course also been greatly challenged by the arrival, in the 1990s, of major international groups, such as Zara, H & M and Uniqlo.

Not only affordable brands, but also more fashion-oriented: "Zara copied fashion shows, H & M and Uniqlo multiplied collaborations, and consumers discovered wardrobes adaptable to all fashion silhouettes and at low prices" .

The opportunity for Pierre-Louis Desprez to release a blower: "There is no strong enough brand identity, no vision of fashion pushed enough, we don't know why we go to so and so instead of another.

By dint of playing with neutral and sober clothing, French brands are disappearing from the landscape and the imagination.

These boxes have fallen asleep, they no longer know why they are there.

The comparison with international brands is uncompromising: “You can say what you want about the style of Uniqlo or Desigual, but at least there is a style, ideas.

You recognize Desigual as soon as you see it, you don't recognize Jules or Célio.


This would then be the limit of French mid-range brands, which have remained in a logic of mass consumption, according to Philippe Moati: “They aim as much as possible for the median consumer, but it no longer exists: everyone wants to distinguish themselves.

Today, it takes biases, risks, strong and offbeat proposals, pleasing a few and being hated by others.

French brands are a bit like a warm water tap that seeks to please everyone”.

Pleasing everyone, but being nobody's favourite.

Camaïeu learned this the hard way.


Liquidation of Camaïeu: How did we arrive at the layoffs of 2,600 people?


Camaïeu liquidated, 2,700 employees made redundant

  • Economy

  • Garment

  • Mark

  • Clothing

  • Style

  • purchasing power