Laurence Paganini, expert in business transformation

A former executive director of major retail groups, Laurence Paganini took over the leadership of Kaporal in 2013 with the ambition of transforming a family clothing brand into a pioneer of the online fashion market.

“The changes we are going through now are not short-lived. They are part of an ongoing process.

A stake in the takeover

Laurence Paganini’s appointment as CEO of Kaporal can be traced back to a fortuitous meeting with Daniel Bernard, former CEO of Carrefour and Kingfisher, who is also a Senior Advisor with Towerbrook Capital. When the British-American investment management firm was considering a takeover of the Marseille-based company, Daniel Bernard naturally thought of approaching this talented leader, the first woman director of a Carrefour hypermarket who was later promoted to Group Marketing Director of this major international retailer.  “At first, I was simply asked to provide recommendations about the financial health and positioning of this French company, a little gem in the jeans sector. At the end of that assignment, I was asked to take over as CEO of Kaporal and I accepted the offer.” But after having spent her entire career as an employee, Laurence decided to take the opportunity of acquiring a financial stake in the business. “It’s a question of maturity. I’d also been toying with the idea of working for myself for a long time. And when a CEO is on the same level as her shareholders, the result is really remarkable."

Positive governance

The financial involvement of managers has been taken a step further because the members of the company’s executive committee now hold shares in the business, as do certain key employees.  “This is a real source of strength and ensures our long-term sustainability. We devote a lot of time to exchanging ideas about our vision of the business, and we are lucky to have a high level of visibility regarding its perspectives.” And the formula appears to be working, because Kaporal reported consolidated sales figures of €126M in 2017 (+23% in the E-Commerce sector and +13% for the network of retail stores compared with 2016). The company operates through a network of 120 stores, 15 franchises and 1600 sales points in France, Germany, Belgium and Spain to market the collections put together by 17 designers. All the designers work in France. Online sales now account for 20% of all sales, and are conducted via the company website in addition to partnerships with leading e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Zalando and Among the range of factors that have contributed to this success, Laurence highlights the benefits of effective governance. “The rules were clearly defined and each individual has a perfectly identified role."

One of the Top 10 LinkedIn Influencers

If Laurence Paganini is currently one of the leading French influencers on LinkedIn – she is in the Top 10 alongside Emmanuel Macron – it is because this former CEO of 3 Suisses and Marionnaud is acutely aware of the importance of taking the lead when it comes to the digital transformation. “Social media represent one of the visible manifestations of the way digitalisation is transforming our world. It has never been easier to share ideas with anybody, regardless of their position, to seek out the information you need or develop your own ecosystem.  For a manager, that translates into a fantastic means of conveying brand image and drawing attention to your company’s expertise."

3 tips for a successful transformation

In the course of her business career, Laurence Paganini has become an expert in transformation. And although Kaporal has a solid foothold in the market, she continues to foster a “startup” and “garage” mindset among her teams. “It is vital to be able to anticipate and develop our degree of resilience.  The changes we are going through now are not short-lived. They are part of an ongoing process.” An advocate of the benefits of yoga and meditation, Laurence Paganini cites three key factors for successfully transforming a business. Firstly, the importance of fostering a culture of change. “This involves brainstorming sessions and initiatives that come from employees themselves. The idea is to give people the time they need to accept new situations and develop new skills with the essential support of training.” The second factor is permanent communication. “The company has to identify then rely on the support of a network of goodwill ambassadors in charge of passing on information to employees. This is a highly effective strategy for turning pockets of resistance into opportunities for change.” Finally, the third lever for success lies in the ability to manage day-to-day and long-term issues in parallel.  “Of course it is important to set ambitious targets, but at the same time it is vital to provide support to teams each day as they incorporate the changes into their daily work."

Firmly anchored in local life

Kaporal is proud of its Mediterranean roots. Its location has even become a persuasive factor in terms of recruitment. “We have no trouble inciting the most talented professionals in our line of business to come to Marseille.” The company participates actively in local life through a range of initiatives. For the past two years, Kaporal has been running the “Kaporal buys and recycles your old jeans” operation within its retail network. Customers are encouraged to hand over their old jeans at one of the stores in exchange for a voucher worth 20 euros. These used clothes are then sent to a garment factory in Marseille - 13 A’Tipik –  which recycles them and transforms them into other objects or new clothes designed by upcoming young designers. All the profits are donated to an emblematic charity based in the Mediterranean city: L’école de la deuxième chance (the “second-chance educational programme”). “Many of our socially responsible initiatives are run by our employees. This is a way of reinforcing team spirit and translating our values into concrete actions day after day."

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