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VETRA, the genuine French workwear 

Getting inspired by the brand's background,

Founded by our Great-grandfather in 1927 in Paris,

We are recounting through this website, the history of Vetra's workwear : everyday's and today's wear.

Richard & Edouard BEERENS

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A FAMILY SAGA

Edouard Beerens in his factory in 1938

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History of a family business

 

The BEERENS family is based in Paris in the 20’s. Edouard receives, as a wedding present from his mother, her aprons and overalls atelier. The workshop is located in Paris, Bretonvilliers st. 3, on Saint Louis island in the heart of the city where Edouard created his own brand VETRA in 1927.

 

Edouard creates a complete range of workwear garments for men’s. However, facilities space becomes quickly too limited. Consequently, the company moves in 1930 to du Bourg st. 100, Lambersart in the North of France. He makes design and pattern grading, manages production while his wife Constance is in charge of sales contact and shipping.

 

Manufacturing is made in the workshop and also by workers sewing on their own machine at home pieces cut at the factory. Sub-contractors at Merville and Estaires complete production capacity.

 

In 1939, the workshop manufactures uniforms for the French army. On May 19th 1940,   Edouard cuts the uniforms into pieces and destroys his machines while refusing to work for the Nazis. The exodus means to flee quickly and take the very minimum. To save his most expensive machine, a buttonhole REECE, he loads it in a trailer after his car. This machine will end its duty in 2010 after 895.000.000 buttonholes made!

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After a long hazardous journey, the family settles in the small town of Le Lude in the West of France in 1940. Despite being tracked by the Gestapo, Edouard establishes a new workshop and starts production again. He began to make uniforms for the Resistance (one of which is displayed at the Roger Bellon museum in Conlie (Sarthe)).

In 1945, Janine, his elder daughter, joins the company just for ‘a few months’ in her mind … However, she will become vice president of VETRA and retires after … 54 years of commitment and passionate service!

Claude Beerens his son, joins the company in 1950 after graduating in Paris as an engineer in Garment Manufacturing. Firstly in charge of production, he streamlines the manufacturing process following the Kanban system created by Toyota in the car industry and steadily increases production until the 1980’s. He enhances the skill base of the workers while remaining faithful to the VETRA quality and reputation.

Patrick, his grandson, joins in 1988 after graduating from the Audencia Business School and an MBA in the USA. He introduces new products and works with his Japanese partners to adapt styles from the Original Archive while retaining the Brand’s authenticity which results in strong export growth for the Brand.

A GENUINE BRAND

Claude Beerens modelling for VETRA in 1939

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Vétra brand's history

 

 

VETRA brand was created by EDOUARD BEERENS in Paris in 1927. He designed the red VETRA logo with a manufacture at the back, as displayed on today’s label. Workwear brand names were currently in red ink in the first part of the 19TH century because referring to the working class emblem. 

 

VETRA name has been basically composed of the abbreviation of VETements de TRAvail ( in English it would have been ‘WW’ ). The use of two syllables has made it easy to memorize the short synthetic brand name VETRA.

 

The color of the logo has changed with time. Indeed, after a period dominated by black and dark colors, fabrics in cotton/linen mixtures and pure cotton in the iconic French hydrone blue have taken the lead from the 50’s. VETRA logo has become naturally blue to symbolize this change. Then, it became even lighter and brighter in blue when the Bugatti blue color became popular in the 70’s while in parallel a gold yarn VETRA logo was stitched on the most iconic and high quality products of the range.

 

VETRA mottos have always highlighted the high quality of the products and the right fitting of the garments :

 

VETRA EVER LASTS

VETRA : THE WORKWEAR THAT FITS

VETRA THE TAILOR FOR PROFESSIONALS

 

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This was why outfits of the brand were worn in famous movies while no financial participation was granted for that promotion.

VETRA has ever tied mutual confidence and established reliability in its relationships with clients and suppliers. Its products had been distributed for decades by specialty stores and marketed to industrial companies before entering select shops and concept stores. In the past, workers and craftsmen were proud to wear VETRA garments for their quality and durability. After 1968, some unions and workers even imposed VETRA workwear in their bargaining negotiations !...

 

Despite VETRA has always been workwear, the company also manufactured five pockets jeans in raw denim. In 1964, a joint-venture was even considered with LEE but did not come out as both companies wanted 51% of capital shares…

 

The range of products has enlarged from the second half of the 90’s with garments reinterpreted in collaboration with Japanese agents and clients.

 

Now, customers have been keen to VETRA brand authenticity and its made in France garments, iconic of a life style.

THE FACTORY

An insight of VETRA's factory nowadays

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The workshop

 

 

VETRA has ever been a manufacturer’s brand since its creation in Paris. The workshop has been basically linked to the brand.

 

In the North of France, the manufacture was located in the running on from the house. As the firm faced growth, the workshop buildings were encroaching increasingly on the garden…

 

Production restarted from scratch in 1941 at Le Lude, rue du Château. Raw materials shortage was as crucial as the difficulty to keep in touch with clients, whose main concern was to survive. Nonetheless, the workshop continued to produce basic work wear in moleskin and dungaree twill, supplied in half-width folded rolls, in cotton or cotton/linen mixture.

 

In 1956, Edouard Beerens acquired a building which was used at the beginning of the 19th century by a slipper manufacturer, and then as a flour-mill. Between 1956 and 1966, the buildings were enlarged and the surface of the workshop was tripled.

 

 

In 1964, production growth was reaching a limit due to a lack of labour force despite workers were already coming from within 20-kilometers around. A new factory was therefore built in the vicinities, in the bordering Maine et Loire department, at Noyant. 

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In the new facilities, Claude Beerens implemented Toyota’s Kanban model with a conveyor using trays. The distribution of work followed manufacturing operations sequence, automatically managed by the conveyor while reducing waste of handling time. Manufacturing of 5 pockets jeans (Beerens’ Pants) in 14 Oz and 12 Oz denim and polyester/cotton fabrics was a pillar of the production.

 

During the 70’s, period corresponding to the peak of production volume, VETRA manufactured more than 600.000 pieces a year - the great majority for men’s.

 

Work wear production in France, until the 80’s and ‘90s, had been mainly a matter of industrial business, where competitors involved were nation-wide players. Leaders were large size manufacturers with the highest level of know-how and the most rationalized processes.

 

The 2000-2010 decades completely challenged the business with worldwide competition coming from low-cost countries. The fate of ‘made in France’ work wear has moved to a few smaller scale factories providing market niches with high quality garments.  

 

GOING GLOBAL

VETRA at a fashion fair in 1983

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Going worldwide

 

VETRA has been renowned abroad since the 50’s when maintenance technicians in airways companies and workers in the petroleum industry in Africa were wearing 100% cotton uniforms. In the 50’s and 60’s, exports were mainly aimed at French speaking countries used to source heavy duty quality garments ( satins – light moleskins , and twills named coutils ). In Northern African countries, VETRA has also been very reputed for its 100% linen black overalls which were worn in the street because their quality was appraised as going beyond regular workwear and well adapted to the climate.

 

In the 60’s and 70’s, European countries continue the story particularly in Belgium. VETRA garments are favored by craftsmen and factories for its heavy duty typically French two-ply warp dungaree twills while sergés were more commonly used.

 

In the 70’s and 80’s, the U.S. becomes the ‘new frontier’ and more specifically New York where VETRA coveralls and bib overalls in raw 100% cotton twills and herringbones are overdyed, making them pieces of every day garments for teenagers, first females and males, who wanted to see life in flashy or pastel colors. For this generation, workwear garments become transgressive and matched with stripes t-shirts. 

 

The most significant and sharpest development in VETRA styles for export has started at the beginning of the 90’s as it has pushed the limits of the know how of the manufacture while keeping the authenticity of the brand.

 

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After being identified in Paris by a buyer of a very famous Japanese select shop as a manufacturer of well fitted and high quality authentic French workwear garments, VETRA has made a trustful partnership with his esteemed exclusive distributor for Japan, Boy’s Co., establishing long lasting business relationships with the best select shops in Japan which are the most demanding in the world and whose very high professionalism has made the brand becoming ever better.

 

BOY’S Co. and its clients have acquired through a long experience a great knowledge of French workwear specificity, its contribution to the history of garments, in parallel to the American workwear. With its own expertise and collaboration with its clients, the company has been able to bring out the essence of the iconic identity of the brand and its products. VETRA workwear have been reinterpreted for today while keeping untouched its soul and authenticity. City boys have been found of these high quality products made to be worn every day, completely in accordance with their needs. They have made the success of the brand.

 

Development has been dramatically stopped when exchange rates have reshuffled the cards: while yen and dollar currencies were dropping sharply by 30% within a couple of years, the Euro currency was making production costs in France rocketing.

 

Since 2010, VETRA through a new generation, continues to explore its past to reinvent new products while keeping in mind that from the origin function makes workwear.

Faithful to its roots and soul, VETRA brand has been manufacturing its authentic garments in France and selling in a dozen countries around the world..