Saint James – Seashore Inspired Style
The designer clothing brand ‘Saint James’ comes from humble origins dating back to around 1850 when the Legallais family started to spin and dye locally sourced wool which was to be resold as skeins and balls of wool to haberdasheries in Brittany and Normandy, France. This was then sold as underwear and shirts and thus laying the groundwork for the famous fisherman’s sweater. Leon Legallais, then Mayor of Saint-James went on to transform the small workshop into the booming industry it’s recognised as. Saint James the brand was officially founded in 1889 and has been well established in it’s namesake commune of Saint-James in Lower Normandy since the company’s creation then having become a Public Limited Company in 1929.
Some years later in 1950 Julien-Bonte from Roubaix, France, took over of the brand and gave up on that traditional activity to focus on the production of cardigans and sweaters such as the ‘Real Breton Fisherman’s Sweater’ knitted in pure local wool. Even today one of the main features of Saint James knitwear is that it is considered almost waterproof due to the thick and tight construction of the wool.
At this point thanks to his outright determination and faith in the company Joulien-Bonte and his son saved Saint James from decline. This was not done lightly as Joulien had to relocate him and his family from their northern home to the commune of Saint-James in order to make this possible.
By the end of the 1950’s Saint James had began to fit lifeguards with their clothing and knitwear as their high endurance production make the clothing ideal for the rough conditions at sea.
In 1970 Saint James updated it’s brand name to ‘Tricots Saint-James’ which parts of company still go by today.
A couple of years later Bernard Bonte succeeded his father and decided to build a new plant of the Saint James industrial estate with 1,800 square meters of workshops and hundreds of meters of office space which was inaugurated in 1977. At this point the brand considerably diversified providing larger product lines in order to meet growing demand and producing seasonal collections in the process.
Shortly after the company reinforced its position as a knitwear leader with a nortical and stylish theme to it’s collections.
In 1982 Tricots Saint-James completed the development of a 100% cotton collection which still inspires the ranges of today that also feature prevalent cotton manufacture.
Saint James – brand growth and expansion
Celebrating 60 years of Saint-James Ltd spinning and 100 years of Legallais family legacy 1989 saw the modernisation of the company’s logo and the setting of a record, creating the world’s largest jumper, a whole 8 meters high and 14 meters cross both sleeves.
On the 5th December 1990 a company staff buyout was implemented in anticipation of managing director Bernard Bonte’s retirement. This meant Saint James was able to retain it’s precious plant and employment. Present day sees management of the brand in the responsibility of Yannick Duval, as Chairman of the Board and Joel Legendre, as Administrative and Financial Director.
Despite trying economic times Saint James’ management was able to concentrate of the construction of new buildings in the mid 1990’s as to regular development of activity leading to a need for expansion. The new Saint James site consists of 6,500 meters square of space along with investment in equipment and staff training.
Following this pattern of growth in 2001 a new extension was added to the site bringing it up to an impressive 11,000 square meters in order to sustain a continually increasing customer demand.
Going from strength to strength Saint James decided to create ‘warp and weft’ ranges including trousers, shirts and jackets by dealing with outfitters reputed for the quality of their manufactures, this collection offers marine inspired creations.
In January 2005 Tricot Saint James received the trophy for ‘Ethics and Governance’ by the business school EDC. This prodigious award was sponsored by Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and was to recognize the good management represented by Mr Bernard Bonte transferring power and capital to the employees, as well as the significant development of the company in France and abroad. The brand’s takeover project of 1990 was declared a success for both its development and staff growth.
The next company milestone happened in 2008 with the growth of the company’s independent agent network, opening ‘Saint James’ after Mont Saint-Michel, Nice, Paris and Saint-Malo with two new boutiques in Strasbourg and Lyon.
In 2010 Saint James celebrated the inauguration of a new concept store in Saint-Malo followed by two new openings across France. Later this nortical theme brought the opening of a shop towards the seashore with a ‘pier’ decoration. Quality basic fabrics, bold lines and vibrant colours enabled the collections to ‘breathe in an authentic breeze from the open sea’.
Later in December 2012 Saint James changed ownership once again but stayed loyal to it’s French origins. The brand was taken over through a LBO to the executive managers soon to be joined by Luc Lesenecal, who became President of the company. Yannick Duval and Joel Legendre to this day remain large shareholders and always intend to support new management, similar to the support they received from the Bonte family from 1990 onwards.
Why choose Saint James?
With over a hundred years experience Saint James have leant a lot about style and are most well know for a cult piece of clothing “the genuine pure new knitted woolen Breton seaman’s sweater” which was originally intended for use against the harsh conditions deep sea fisherman faced but then was adopted by known seafarers and amateur yachtmen alike. After gaining popularity though this Saint James ‘ collections continue to attract a large audience on the coast line especially with the label’s pure wool, pure cotton ‘seashore’ ranges. However Saint James have also seen an increase in demand from major cities in France, throughout Europe and worldwide, in the United States, Canada and Japan thanks to brand merchandising and company expansion. Nowadays Saint James boutiques can be found in Paris, Nice, Le Mont Saint-Michel, Saint -Malo, Strasbourg, Lyon, Biarritz, New York, Tokyo and Osaka, as well as having stockists across the UK and internationally.
Saint James’ womenwear Spring/Summer 2017 collection is looking fresher then ever featuring waterproof raincoats in statement colours such as Marine blue and Foam white (Ecru). Saint James have also become iconic for striped patterned tops which are showcased in the range. This is along side a mix of dresses with a variation of design, necklines and hemlines, ideal for the hot summer months in high quality cotton and polyamide manufactures. Saint James can be dressed up or down but there is something for every woman with this seasons collection.