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Elli Zeno
Focus | 24 mai

Habit Cactus’ thorny success story
If he had known two years ago that he would sell Velcro, Etienne Piketty would certainly not have lifted an eyebrow.

 © DR
If someone had predicted, two or three years ago, that he would turn Velcro selling into his occupation, Etienne Piketty would certainly not have lifted an eyebrow, he would have barely thanked us for the information.
One must admit that Etienne, 24 years old, is also co-founder of the group/music record Pain Surprises with Félix de Givry, revelation of Mia Hansen Love’s film Eden , monetizes the unlikely with an unprecedented success. Within a few years, Pain Surprises imagined a “pocketless world”, shaved the middle of one of its member’s skull – Jacques, who became in the meantime a musical phenomenon  – and introduced the band Jabberwocky found by chance on the internet, huge success two years ago. Still with Félix, Etienne created decorative patches that you can graft on to any outfit, and most importantly he sells them, under the name of Habit Cactus.
Officially launched last January, the brand is only at its first steps. But these few months of existence required a year and a half of development to keep four promises made to the client: “quality, freedom, power on the outfit, and distinction”. It took meters and meters of fabric, Velcro and as much patience to his founders to find the appropriate materials, make viable prototypes and surround themselves with high-class artistic collaborators. Among them, the Parisian graphic studio M/M, a reference in the field, and the designer architect India Mahdavi, founder of several Costes establishments who design, for Habit Cactus, a couple of exotic-bird shaped patches.

Made in France

At the origin of Habit Cactus, there are Etienne and Felix of course, but on a daily basis, Ziden Vicendeau-Verbraeken, graduate from the prestigious applied arts school Duperré, is the one making it work. Habit Cactus sells one model of bomber, a unique model of cap, and an already pretty impressive set of patches. Zite draws them, assembles them and minutely sews them, one by one. She is based in Montreuil, in a warehouse renovated by Pain Surprises and which is now a living place for the two entities. “Everything is Made in France”, Etienne insists, quite proudly. Only the caps are made in Portugal. A way to place themselves as premium, while keeping a proximity with the suppliers, which suits the brands and its small sets.
And what about numbers? Little smiles:“Let’s say we’re doing pretty well” We won’t know more, but the easiness with which Etienne lists, a few seconds later, all of his “pre-launching mistakes” makes you think that he is telling the truth. “We were eager to start, we spent without comparing enough”, he sums up. It was not enough to alert Habit Cactus’s business angels, two investors from the same firm and from Etienne and Félix’s circle who provided part of the starting capital, “less than 50,000 euros”.
For now, the patch business remains confidential, although Adidas brought back to life its “scratch” Stan Smith for adults, and although Zara became found of bombers with unremovable pieces, sewed directly on the outfit. Habit Cactus’ goal: becoming the only master in its kingdom of the nomad piece… “To better conquest the universe”, Etienne says with a laugh, while in the meantime dreaming of a collaboration with Lacoste.
If Velcro crocodiles are not for today, many offers are coming since the brand were noticed by prescribing actorsBusiness of Fashion et Vogue, by dressing two Korean bloggers at Paris’ last fashion week. A discrete but efficient communication, like when Vincent Lacoste appeared on Canal Plus’ Le Petit Journal wearing a cloud-patch, leaving the hundreds of thousands followers of the show with the pleasure to discover Habit Cactus.
For the website’s interface, the creators turned their friend into occasional models. The young comedian Stéphane Bak or Ulysse from the Papooz band appear in long shots but their name is never cited. It was not the point, Etienne insists: “All we wanted was interesting faces. And recruiting friends is less expensive and funnier.” Alice Moitié, , a very popular photographer, also went in front of the camera: “They are friends, we are helping each other out”,she told us over the phone.

Efficiency and mutualisation

To what could be called “staying with each other”, and over “networking”, Etienne answers “efficiency” and “forces mutualisation”:“If I have what I need around me, why would I go and seek it elsewhere?” t is also the creed of many young people launching themselves in fashion. Jeanne Damas, a much followed Parisian on Instagram, coupled her ready-to-wear brand Rouje, , also launched at the beginning of the year, to a #lesfillesenrouje hashtag, which gathers the posts of her friends with a well-established virtual fame, all wearing her creations.
Habit Cactus completely accepts this permeability of social networks and skills: Basile di Manski, last designer of Pain Surprise, recently performed “Je suis une fille emoji” (I am an emojis girl) – a good way for this former lawyer who became a crooner to meet journalists. And it is also good for the client: when a big Parisian establishment contacts the brand for a collaboration… He ended up also inviting the record’s artists to perform at his house.
At Habit Cactus, flexibility is the key, with an imperative: never stop having fun, and even provoke it nicely. Soon, the brand will launch a limited set of patches bearing the effigy of “Jacques”, who will perform at the beginning of June for the We Love Green festival in Paris, with some freshly cut hair of the artists,who already lost half of it . The goal: continue to experiment, and not only on the technical level.

As for the future, Etienne Piketty sees it “limitless”. “The brand is meant to be universal, to speak to everyone. We can develop, create new concepts, like grafting ours on to others.”

the whole world is a cactus, Jacques Dutronc sang in 1966. Beware: it might be true.
Le site d'Habit Cactus
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Crédits photo : DR
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