Translating Fashion

The French children’s clothing store Jacadi is a case study in the craziness that is globalization. Here is a French store expanding into the U.S. market because its fashions are more popular here than at home. Furthermore, it is hiring personnel who speak Tagalog and Korean to better serve its target American audience.

Consider the following from a recent New York Times article:

About 55 percent of revenues are generated outside France, compared with 35 percent five years ago, he said, with the United States contributing about 20 percent of non-French revenue, up from 17 percent five years ago.

Jacadi is reacting to growing competition in its home market as well as to a European trend away from expensive frills and toward less-expensive streetwear. Indeed, while Jacadi still stresses what Mr. Charpentier likes to call “bon chic, bon genre” — roughly, real chic, real style — it overhauled the collection two years ago to accommodate the streetwear trend. “The colors, the style, the cut are more modern,” he said.

Still, neither the streetwear trend nor the uncertain economy has yet crimped Americans’ taste for the French children’s look, and Jacadi has done well with velvet dresses that go for up to $79 or jumpers for up to $89. Part of its strategy is to aim at ethnic groups whose tastes may tend to the frilly. Its Web site, for instance, specifies that Tagalog is spoken at a Madison Avenue store and Korean at several other sites.

Here’s the Jacadi global gateway:

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So if your product flops in your home market, don’t give up. You may still have a hit on your hands in some foreign market. The trick is in finding that market. But, like Jacadi, you have to move quickly. Fashion is fickle, and so too is globalization.

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