Entrepreneurs Forever 2014 | Version française

Jacques Bungert et Frédéric Torloting

Co-chairmen of Courrèges

Their friendship led them to buy an iconic fashion brand together.

« We are managing a start-up with a fabulous international brand. » That's how Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting present their new adventure at the head of the House of Courrèges, after 20 years of entrepreneurial success in the world of communication.
It is first and foremost the story of an incredible friendship. « We have a priceless connection; we're constantly giving each other a leg-up. »

Both of them are from Metz, and, as students at EMLYON, they used to travel home together. Sharing mechanical breakdowns and games of tennis, the Junior Enterprise and ski-slopes, they resolved that one day they would create a company together.

In 1990, Jacques Bungert was Export Manager in New-York where he was launching Evian mineral water, and Frédéric Torloting was producing company videos in Paris. The tandem started Prodéo and very quickly, the agency sneaked in as one of the key players in non-media advertising and event organising, with big customers like Danone.

Transmission is not a process, it's a meeting experienced through repeated friction to create the future. Coqueline Courrèges chose to transmit to us something untransmissable: their reasoning, their imagination, their dreams.
But that doesn't mean we dwell on nostalgia or imitation. In fact, we are still a start-up, rich in the history of a brand and a unique style, with an exceptional creative potential.

In 1999, the agency employed a team of 50, and had reached the limits of its own independence. It joined the Young & Rubicam group, and began expanding all its service activities. « We continued as before, as two interchangeable elements, with entrepreneurship and the Gecomar principle – GErer COmme si c’était Mon Argent (Managing as if it were my own money) – as our guidelines. »

Then there was a First in 2005: the British company WPP offered them the co-Chairmanship of the Young & Rubicam group, which was in trouble. « For six months, we moved forward back-to-back to get the company in shape again. » They promised to avoid any redundancies, won a few nice team victories with big budget clients, and fashioned a climate of trust. The duo imposed its vision (highly innovative at the time) of a 360° approach.

In 2009, they signed an editorial for Mme Figaro magazine, about timeless brands and the importance of trust in customer relationships. By chance, Coqueline Courrèges, the "creative complementarity" and wife of couturier André Courrèges (91 years old this year), at the head of the company since 1994, read it, and that was all she needed to suggest a meeting. Jacques Bungert spent three "extraordinary’’ hours listening to this exceptional woman talk about the Courrèges spirit, the history of the company, and their project for the handover.. There was no lack of candidates. « In honour of our work, I would prefer to shut down rather than to sell to just anyone », she announced.

A sincere friendship became woven in with many other exchanges, to the point where, one day, Coqueline and André Courrèges decided that the company should be transmitted to them – thanks to the miracle of that meeting. Moved, and conscious that this was the project of a lifetime, the two publicists found their source of funding... in Lorraine. And at the end of 2010, there they were, owners – 50/50 as always – of Courrèges, 60 employees, a production site in Pau and a brand tailored for the future, with its pop culture, its vinyl, its trapeze dresses, its mini-skirts and its... electric cars!

At the end of 2011, our two buyers had adjusted the transition at Y&R, and, ‘’by hurrying along slowly " were ready to roll out the catwalk of the relaunch: perfumes, creating an online store, upgrading production, boosting the distribution network, taking in hand licences, communication, enhancing the heritage formed by all the models, to make the brand and its charming dresses popular again... as with the capsule collection created for La Redoute mail order catalogue in 2013.

« We are working in order for Courrèges to be one of the top French brands in the world again. That is our dream... and our moral duty, with respect to the trust that Andre and Coqueline had in us! » A challenge which measures up to their friendship.

EM Lyon: Programme Grande Ecole 1988
Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC
Date de parution : 12/09/14