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Lee to open 20 UK and Irish franchise stores

Lee Jeans is in talks with a number of partners to open franchise stores in the UK and Ireland, setting a target of 20 within three years.

European president Gilles Laumonier also told Drapers the brand is considering opening a small number of UK standalone stores, on top of the two it already has, but maintained the key priority is its wholesale stockists, of which there are 150 in the UK and Ireland.

Laumonier joined Lee in 2009 from backpacks and luggage brand Eastpak – both are owned by US group VF Corporation – with a remit to refresh the denim brand and grow its presence in the UK and Europe. He has since spearheaded store redesigns and openings in European cities, with an initial focus on Scandinavia and northern Europe. The UK and Germany are the next priority.

“We are back into key players like Selfridges, House of Fraser, Harvey Nichols, Harrods, John Lewis and Urban Outfitters and have a strong network of independent stockists – we are both back where we want to be, in a better position, but with bigger ambition,” he said.

Lee recently relocated its Seven Dials store from 35 Neal Street to 33 Neal Street and unveiled a new shopfit. The store is the fifth to feature the lateststore concept, following two in Paris, one in Warsaw and one in Antwerp.

Laumonier explained: “Previously it was very dark with lots of industrial materials, but now we’ve introduced lighter woods, leather and metal for a more contemporary feel.”

Lee turned 125 this year and celebrated with exclusive designer collaborations, including another partnership with men’s and women’s independent Other/shop in Soho, London, following the initial tie-up for autumn 13. The Other x Lee womenswear collection was launched at a pop-up shop at the old Neal Street store on Thursday and will run to January 4.

Donwan Harrell, creative director of luxury denim brand Prps, Emma François of womenswear brand Sessùn, Swedish denim designer Örjan Andersson, and Belgian design trio Filles à Papa – sisters Sarah and Carol Piron and Gregory Derkenne – all reworked key styles for the Lee 125 Years Collection, which launched in selected stores last month.

In September the brand launched its first transactional website for the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and France. Its coverage will extend to the whole of Europe by Christmas.

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