The Chinese fashion brand ICICLE has just opened its second door in Paris’ 8th arrondissement, at 50 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, near the Hermès flagship.
Owned by the ICCF Group, ICICLE began its presence in the French capital on avenue George V in September 2019, followed by a 50-square-meter corner at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann in 2021. Earlier this year, they also opened a womenswear and accessories concession at the luxury department store Le Bon Marché.
Such developments show the accelerating pace of the group’s global expansion. Here, Jing Daily analyzes its progress and reviews the brand’s previous efforts toward international goals.
Founded in Shanghai, in 1997, ICICLE offers modern, professional women eco-friendly luxury apparel. Since acquiring its first factory in suburban Shanghai in 2006, ICCF Group has made continuous investments in the supply chain to sustain quality and consolidate its market position.
The ICCF Group acquired the factory of Korean company KJ in Haimen, Jiangsu Province, in 2013. According to Jiemian News, the factory was previously an OEM for Max Mara double-faced wool coats, boasting decades of top-notch manufacturing experience and craftsmanship. In 2016, the ambitious outfit also acquired a sweater-making factory in the Minhang District of Shanghai from the Japan World Group.
By scaling up its product portfolio and building production capacity, ICCF Group has paved the way to go global as a mid- to high-end brand.
French fashion label Carven reopened its flagship store on the Champs-Élysées in September 2021 after decades of closure. This boutique is known to be the brand’s first, opened by founder Marie-Louise Carven in 1945.
The ICCF Group bought Carven for €4.2 million in October 2018 — a perfect pairing of Chinese supply chain and French design. Carven will strengthen ICCF’s position in the mid- to high-end market with its originality and support the group’s development of global entry strategies with its rich experience as a French fashion house. In return, the ICCF Group can fulfill Carven’s design and fabric needs, while boosting expansion in China (and, of course, revival in France).
The acquisition of Carven is an important step for ICCF’s international expansion, but it is not the group’s first move in this regard. In 2013, it established ICICLE Paris Mode, while the opening of the ICICLE Paris Retail Center in 2018 marked the formal launch of its international retail footprint.
Traditional fashion companies expand globally either by opening flagship stores or acquiring overseas labels. But the latter way is no shortcut. Direct acquisition does not avoid the need for brand building, which ICCF prioritizes, telling its brand stories across multiple matrices.
Building Brand Power
The ICCF Group has been transforming its retail stores since 2017. The first upgrade was the ICICLE Space opened in Caohejing, Shanghai. It now consists of two floors, with a clothing showroom and sales area, as well as a restaurant, art gallery, and bookstore.
“It is very popular among consumers in recent years to provide diversified shopping experience and promote lifestyle. Be it a fast fashion brand or luxury brand, they all launch home accessories,” said Zoe Yong, project manager of Daxue Consulting. “ICICLE’s building of a desirable lifestyle and guidance on consumption based on its brand positioning will serve to satisfy consumers’ growing demand for new service products and to fuel sales growth and market reach.”
ICICLE has accumulated extensive experience through its efforts to pursue storytelling and brand power at home. It can now deploy this knowledge in a strategy for global expansion.
After two years of preparation, in 2019, ICICLE opened its first global flagship store in Paris. This carries women’s and men’s ready-to-wear lines, fashion accessories, and home decoration products. Of the building’s four floors, the top houses a cultural bookstore, displaying more than 500 books on art, culture, and fashion. Similar to ICICLE Space, the ICICLE Paris flagship functions more like a creative collection store.
Last year, Isabelle Capron, Vice President of ICCF Group, revealed a plan to open more than 20 stores in London, Milan, Berlin, and other important European cities in the next five years. It shows that ICCF Group is prepared to expand faster by improving its supply chain, embracing the originality of French design, and deepening its brand power.