Hast, the latest cool French fashion start-up
The next time anyone tells you how hard it is to open a company in France, tell them to talk to the guys at Hast.
Standing for Honest And Simple Trend, Hast is a clever new niche brand that’s developed a simple signature style and an insider following in Paris since being launched by three college graduates back in 2012.
Its dorsal spine is great, hyper-wearable shirts, made in top-notch double-twist cotton and produced in the better class of factories in Italy and Portugal. No-pain-at-the-cash-register fashion.
“We concentrated on the quality and working directly with the best ateliers. We cut out the middle-man to produce honest affordable luxury,” explained Samy Ziani, one of the three founding partners. Algiers-born, though Paris-raised Ziani, who handles Hast’s marketing, digital and media, met Emmanuel Denieau, who oversees client services and logistics, while the two were studying in the Ecole du Commerce in Rheims, the champagne capital of the world. Thomas Diez, who is in charge of actually producing collections, joined them after college.
Initially they retailed Hast exclusively on the web, and still offer all customers the chance to try on items for size and return them for free. Even today, customers to their two Paris boutiques first try on a sample shirt to correctly calculate their exact size, before then making a purchase.
Their shirts are increasingly packaged in a new material developed by Tipa in Israel, which supplies the wrapping for Stella McCartney, the high priestess of eco fashion. “They are made of completely bio-degradable plastic. You can even use them as compost,” smiles 31-year-old Ziani.
Ziani is mum about exact revenues, though did reveal Hast sold some 45,000 items last year, at an average price point of around 80 euros, “so I am sure you can do the maths.” Meaning annual revenues were around €3.5 million euros.
The trio have been approached by outside investors but are determined to retain control and grow their brand carefully, respecting its honest, no-nonsense DNA.
“Of course, if we took a round of funding and opened up a series of boutiques we would really boost revenues. But outside investors would also lead to a desire to use less expensive materials and manufacturers to boost margins. Whereas we want to be true to our original idea. Quality fashion at a fair price,” stressed Ziani.
The trio opened their first boutique in 2016 in a disused warehouse on rue d’Aboukir, a happening street named after a famous naval battle between Nelson and Napoleon at the Nile Delta. It’s located in Sentier, the booming 2nd arrondissement quarter where concept restaurants and Internet headquarters seem to sprout up every other day.
They debuted their second boutique this year in June, in the classy yet cool Batignolles area of northwest Paris, converting a former fur store into a more streamlined retail space.
Shirts – by now in some 200 references - still account for some 70% of Hast’s turnover – ranging from their entry-level, hard-wearing Oxford button downs at 54 euros to crisp white broken-collar dress shirts at 64 euros and their top-notch gentleman’s shirts at 94 euros, sourced from Thomas Mason, the top line of Albini. Hast works closely with Albini, a major source of quality shirting based in Bergamo.
The brand has even added an Italian designer, Martina Gerosa, in another example of smart transalpine cooperation. Its social media presence underlines its authenticity – images feature no models but friends of Hast.
The marque has expanded to include suits – in natty Neapolitan cuts with soft, deconstructed shoulders made in fabrics supplied by top fabric makers like Vitale Barberis Canonico and Angelico. Impressively, these retail for as little as €340 a suit.
“We visit Naples twice a year, it’s a great source of tailoring and even gloves,” notes Ziani, pointing to calf leather gloves from a one of the last traditional glovemakers from the Gulf of Naples.
Hast has twice had pop-ups inside Paris’ classiest department store Bon Marché in St Germain, but sees this more as a question of prestige and brand building. Apart from that department store, they have never had any wholesale clients. So, expect a careful steady development at Hast, with the next step a probable boutique in Lyon.
And, even though there is nothing political about this brand, they seem to sum up the new mood in Paris, and in this neighborhood. As President Emmanuel Macron likes to say, France is open for business.
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