Economy

Made In Marseille, Knit In North Africa: Textile Industry Unites Mediterranean

Alongside the changes emerging from the Arab spring, the fashion world in France’s southeast corner is shifting its focus away from Asia to its Mediterranean neighbors in North Africa, and establishing a textile industry network that is close at hand.

La Canebière by FaceMePLS
La Canebière by FaceMePLS
Paul Molga

MARSEILLE - Shorter production cycles, more efficient quality control...and yes, the beauty of a shared Mediterranean culture. Since the Arab spring, Marseille's textile industry has been rediscovering the virtues of proximity. Created in the French city's design studios, fashion is now being assembled just across the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

"Creativity in fashion design is benefiting greatly from these exchanges," says Maryline Bellieud-Vigouroux, an advisor to the president of the House of Mediterranean Fashion Professions (MMMM), which she created 18 years ago. At the forefront of this revival is the "Made in Marseille" marque. About 70 new brands were born from this fiery collaboration, including Fuego, Eva Kayan, Les Petites Bombes, Sessun, La Companie des Petits, Le Marseillais, and Tcheka.

In total, the textile and clothing industry represents 16% of the industrial activity in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region. It is home to 11,000 companies giving rise to 26,800 jobs, according to figures released by the Marseille Chamber of Commerce. The Department of the Bouches-du-Rhone is the industry's leader with 4.3 billion euros in sales and a total of 34% of the region's textile companies creating up to 40% of the jobs, of which 6,600 are based in Marseille alone.

A bridge between two shores

By building a bridge between the two sides of the Mediterranean, Bellieud-Vigouroux wants to "keep fashion's sacred fire alive." For the second straight year, she's hosting an original initiative: a contest among Mediterranean countries, where eight designers are selected to attend training in Marseille under the supervision of important figures from the world of high fashion, prêt-a-porter and the textile industry. Last year, 70 personalities, including representatives from Chanel, Maje, Sandro and Gerard Darel, offered their expertise to teach these up-and-coming designers how to create and develop their brands.

"It's a boost to help young designers develop their businesses without falling into the most pernicious traps of this industry," says high-end designer Jocelyne Imbert who oversees the training program. In order to finish the program, young designers will have to present in November an original creation inspired by Moroccan, Spanish, Lebanese, Turkish, Portuguese, Tunisian, Israeli and French cultures. The MMMM is also fighting to make the Mediterranean textile industry something more than just a subcontractor.

Following Marseille's lead, a new school – The Casa Moda Academy – recently opened in Casablanca to promote fashion's avant-garde. "We work fast and well which allows us to compete with China," says Said Benabdeljalil of the Moroccan textile and clothing industry association. The industry employs 250,000 people in Morocco, making it the country's second biggest economic force.

Read original article in French here

Photo - FaceMePLS

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Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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