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FIG Clothing: A concept that travels


FIG Clothing: A concept that travels

When Yan Bariteau purchased FIG Clothing in 2009, the Montreal women’s clothing company had practically no assets and was foundering under the weight of $150,000 in debt. “What I bought was about 40 rolls of fabric, two old computers and a few desks,” the 43-year-old entrepreneur recalls. “But I could see that the company had excellent potential.”

A veteran of the sports clothing industry with 15 years of experience as a sales rep for brands such as The North Face, Prana and Arc’teryx, Bariteau was asked in 2005 to represent FIG Clothing. At the time, it was a young company established in the creative and trendy Montreal district of Mile End.

Impressed by its concept of travel-inspired clothing designed for active women, Bariteau decided to invest in the company and then bought it four years later.

Efforts pay off

Bariteau financed FIG for the first year following the purchase through another one of his companies, Agence Yan Bariteau, which is the exclusive representative in Eastern Canada for Arc’teryx, a manufacturer of outdoor equipment and clothing.

“Things were really tough in the beginning,” Bariteau says. “But we worked hard and succeeded in saving the company.”

Immediately after the purchase, Bariteau moved FIG’s operations to his premises in Laval and began implementing a business strategy focused on distributing to independent retailers appealing to active women who love to travel.

Sales quintupled between 2010 and 2012. About 60,000 clothing items are now sold under the FIG label in 220 boutiques across Canada and in 30 stores in the United States.

Bariteau is now negotiating with a European distributor to sell his clothing in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Competitive advantage

Bariteau says he’s proud to manufacture all his clothes in Canada, a decision that goes against the trend to send production to low-cost offshore factories.

In fact, this is the company’s main competitive advantage, Bariteau says.

“We can exercise better control over quality and benefit from just-in-time manufacturing.”

To offset higher production costs, the company works hard on its internal processes and implements strict cost controls to keep overhead as low as possible.

A cohesive strategy

A consistent approach to branding has also contributed to the company’s success. The travel concept shows up in the tiniest details, from production to marketing and from sales to customer relations.

Each style is identified by an international airport code and clothing labels resemble baggage tags.

Recently the company launched the concept of FIG ambassadors—a dozen young women who are fans of the brand. They’re featured on the company’s website, talking about their favourite FIG products and their active lifestyle.

“We provide a refined alternative to traditional travel clothing, enabling women to feel as comfortable in Manhattan as they would on a safari in Tanzania.”

Excellent relationships

Developing excellent relationships with his eight employees, his suppliers and his subcontractors has enabled Bariteau to spur the company’s growth. “We haven’t lost a single supplier since 2009.”

With the help of BDC Financing, the company has purchased a new location in Montreal’s Mile End, where it plans moving its operations.

Bariteau has ambitious plans for the short and medium terms. These include extending FIG’s presence throughout the United States and opening partner boutiques in Canada that will be managed by independent owners under the FIG banner.

“My greatest ambition is to see the company grow while remaining true to itself. I will not compromise when it comes to the quality of our products or manufacturing our clothing locally.”