Canadian menswear cuts a chic figure in Paris

Montreal’s Hörst will be carried by the prestigious Galeries Lafayette department store

: Jean-Sébastien Octeau is president of Ango Mode Inc., which produces the Hörst line.

A Canadian menswear line has made what could be the ultimate coup – being carried by a world-famous Parisian department store.

Hörst, launched 15 years ago by Montreal-based Ango Mode Inc., will be sold by the prestigious Galeries Lafayette in Paris starting in 2015. The retailer will showcase the German-inspired Hörst using a store-within-a-store concept. The boutique will help Ango Mode carve out an international presence without having to maintain a retail space.

Ango Mode is a wholesale men’s apparel company founded in 1983 by Quebec entrepreneur Guy Octeau. His son, Jean-Sébastien Octeau, became president in 2011 and today oversees Hörst and the company’s other menswear labels, Klauss Boehler and Modango.

A Hörst dress shirt costs from $95 to $118, and a suit runs between $500 and $595. “It’s high fashion at an affordable price,” says Octeau, 41. Hörst is sold through retailers across Canada and the United States as well as Europe and India. “We cater to fashion enthusiasts wherever they are in the world.”

The Hörst boutique in Paris will reflect the brand’s sophisticated German styling and include lush carpet, distinct lighting fixtures and, space permitting, a piano symbolizing the Hörst man’s cultured sensibility.

Octeau reflected on his company’s first venture beyond Canada’s borders, what motivates him and what a Hörst man is.

What’s your market?

Modern male with an active lifestyle. A man who appreciates quality and style – he is both price- and style-conscious. German-inspired Hörst is the go-to men’s fashion brand that says class and confidence before a word is ever spoken.

When did you first expand outside Canada?

We first entered the U.S. market in 2001. Following the financial crisis in 2008, we closed our U.S office. We’ve been in India for one year now.

We currently do not have a foreign office. We have a showroom in Delhi and we will be opening showrooms in Paris and Finland in July, 2014.

How do you adapt to different markets?

A daily challenge is to adapt the collection to different markets, countries, customs, ways of living.

Then there’s the weather. Cold countries want one look, hot countries want another. This forces us to change the “colour stories.” For example, green and red are two very popular colours in India. But they aren’t hues we would push a lot in the U.S. or Canada, where the client tends to be more subdued in his fashion choices.

Do you have to travel much, and if so where and how often?

I was in India last year three times and three times again this year. Typically, I visit Europe four to six times a year, New York five times a year and China, where we manufacture, twice a year. I am in Toronto at least 25 times in a given year, all for business.

Do you partner with local companies?

We have many partnerships and relationships with retailers and businesses across the globe.

How do you communicate?

We have a B2B website. We also use SAP Business One software.

What keeps you motivated?

The positive response we receive from abroad. It’s one thing to believe in what you do. But when other countries and cultures believe in you, too, it’s very reassuring.

What remains a challenge?

When the economy is in turmoil, you still have to run the business, even if you are an established brand. This remains a constant challenge, how to stay on top.

What would you tell others in your shoes to do?

Sit back and think carefully about your next move. Don’t react too quickly. Being bold isn’t always the answer.

Anything else to tell other Canadians about taking their business abroad?

Never underestimate your brand and the potential of your brand, especially in markets abroad. Don’t be afraid to be compared to others. It will simply increase the competitiveness of your brand. Find great alliances. Make smart choices, and never bet the company.

Best Global Trade Finance Bank, GTR Leaders in Trade 2014

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