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Le Château Makes Brick-and-Mortar Comeback with Suzy Shier Partnership: Interview with Veteran Franco Rocchi

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Iconic Canadian fashion brand Le Château is making its comeback in brick and mortar stores with the launch of a new collection of clothing in 37 new concept Suzy Shier locations across the country. 

“As proud as we are of our online site, we are also delighted to be back in stores,” said Franco Rocchi, former Le Château Executive and now Senior Director of Marketing on the new Suzy/Le Château team. “The brand was born in brick-and-mortar, and we couldn’t be happier to rejoin the community of retailers in shopping centres across the country. We are also proud to join our sister brand Suzy in stores now providing a full-service destination for our customers: fashion daywear and workwear at Suzy, while Le Château takes care of all your nighttime and special occasion needs. Le Château also announces the return of its beloved footwear collection, and Le Château menswear makes its online debut.”

Franco Rocchi
Franco Rocchi

Rocchi described Le Château and Suzy Shier as Canada’s new fashion powerhouse.

“Le Château was founded in 1969 and has a long and storied history in Canada. In its heyday, we had 240 stores across the country, this is pre-digital, not only primary and secondary markets but we were in tertiary markets as well. Anywhere from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Kamloops, British Columbia. Ninety per cent of Canadians had a Le Château within a 30-minute drive from where they lived,” said Rocchi. “We permeated the Canadian brick and mortar scene.

Image: Le Chateau

“In 2020, Le Château closed. I was with them for 40 years until the end. So Suzy acquired the intellectual property of Le Château. The fact that Suzy won out in the end was a great thing for Canada because other contenders for the intellectual property, serious contenders, were all based out of the US and would have seen the brand relocated to the US. Jobs would have been lost. Suzy has acquired the brand and has maintained the headquarters of the initial brand in Canada in Montreal.

“If you look at the last 10 years of Le Château, it had really found its groove in occasion wear. Dresses, footwear and accessories for those special evenings whether it’s weddings, or parties, or stepping out, or date night. That had become a strong point and in fact even during the challenging last five years that part of the business had continuously shown year over year growth. We had become the dominant players in that special occasion segment, niche.”

He said Suzy, which was also founded in the 1960s in Montreal, is a master of daywear, casual wear, weekend wear, and workwear.

“This special occasion dress niche was not something in their portfolio and with the relaunch of Le Château we call it Suzy by Day, Le Château by Night. We’ve created a brick and mortar experience for customers in 37 stores to start where the two brands co-exist. Sections are carved out in the stores with distinct personalities but a customer can now get a 360-degree service for all their lifestyle needs from day to night within one brick and mortar store,” said Rocchi.

Le Chateau is shuttering Canada-wide, including at SouthCentre Mall in Calgary. Photo: Jessica Finch.

“The occasion wear is really interesting because there really isn’t anyone in Canada, retail, brick and mortar, that specializes in that lifestyle and at our price point . . . So together we’re looking at a synergy between the two brands that will be experienced in these 37 stores.”

Rocchi said that in some cases Suzy acquired leases of some of the old Le Château stores.

“The new Le Château is really focused on occasion wear. The prior Le Château we covered every lifestyle from casual. We had jeans, we had T-shirts, we had all of that. The new Le Château is going to be focused really on dresses, occasion wear. It has a very glamorous look and feel to it,” he said.

In October 2020, Le Château filed an application seeking protection of the court in order to proceed with the orderly liquidation of its assets and wind down of its operations through the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. At the time, Le Château, headquartered in Montréal, had 123 stores across Canada, in addition to its e-commerce website. 

In June 2021, Le Château announced the sale of all of their intellectual property as well as certain other assets to Suzy’s Inc.

Le Chateau at Guildford – Photo by Lee Rivett

“Le Chateau’s Spring/Summer 2022 Collection is the first full launch since the brand’s return to the fashion scene. It upholds the brand’s reputation as a master dress designer, with styles, prints, and silhouettes for every occasion. This season, inspirations range from the quiet beauty and romance of the garden, channeling feminine florals and pastel-hued chiffons, to the cutting edge vibes of cut-outs, sequins, and sparkles that will stand out in any special occasions: proms, weddings, or that special night on the town. Shimmering metallics and new stunning silhouettes in dresses and jumpsuits position the brand as the go-to destination for all special occasion needs,” said the company.

Under new Canadian ownership, the Le Château Spring/Summer 2022 Collection will be available on lechateau.com and in 37 select Suzy Shier stores across Canada as of April 21. Le Chateau dresses will also be available at the HBC Marketplace as of April 12. 

Store locations include Vancouver, Kelowna, Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Saskatoon, Toronto, Brampton, Windsor, Burlington, London, Waterloo, Oshawa, Cambridge, North Bay, Ottawa, Montreal, Rosemere, Chicoutimi, Quebec City, St Jerome, Drummondville, Drummondville, St. John’s, and Moncton.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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