Orsay is a clothing brand from the French group Mulliez. The 130 German stores will close on 30 June. In total, 1,200 employees lost their jobs across the Rhine. The head office is located in Willstätt, a hundred frontier workers worked there. Opinions.
At Orsay’s headquarters in Willstätt, Baden-Württemberg, 10 km from Strasbourg, 60% of employees are frontier workers. Some have worked 20 or 30 years for Orsay gmbH.
This German clothing company, which was set up in 1975, is part of the French group Mulliez (a galaxy of companies that includes Decathlon, Auchan and Leroy Merlin, among others), which has chosen to part with this subsidiary, created difficulties since the pandemic in 2020.
It had up to 5,000 employees and 650 stores in total, of which 230 in Germany. The head office in Willstätt had 250 employees.
A collective proceeding was initiated in November 2021, after which the German company entered into an insolvency situation. Rents and wages were paid by the state for three months, debt was frozen. The German shops did not find buyers. It was the American investment fund Gordon Brothers that bought the brand in March 2022 and took over a handful of employees in Willstätt.
Olivier lives in Alsace, he has traveled for 33 years. “I spent my whole life at Orsay, it was a very attractive company, with good salaries and exciting jobs, we always learned something new, we never got bored. I did not move, but the company moved around me, it was very stimulating”Explains this frame, a smile on his face.
“The teams were young, very mixed with Germans and Poles. Furthermore, for 10 years we spoke only English“Olivier evokes all these memories in the past. Orsay, it will be over on June 30. The company will definitely close.”It’s a waste. There was covid and the war, that’s for sure. But there were also strategic mistakes“, he regrets.
All employees will each go in a different direction. Another professional life for many, even though a quarter of the head office staff have not yet found a job.
Olivier considers himself lucky. “I have my career behind me, it’s not like others. I managed to find a job. Technically, it’s like going back, because at Orsay we were at the forefront! But I’m lucky. I am not representative of the suffering that my colleagues are experiencing“, he adds. He will not say more.
Some employees have been in tears for weeks, others have red eyes as soon as the end of June approaches. Some can say nothing but “a life“.”They spent 20 or 30 years here, it’s a good part of their lives disappearing, it’s really hard for some“, Explains a director.
“I worked for Orsay for 27 years“, explains this other German employee,”I was product manager. Fashion is never easy, but we hoped until the end that they would find a buyer. I came to work every day with great pleasure. I laughed here, I cried. It’s like a family disappearing for me. I’m glad I found a new job, but my heart is still there“.
“It’s terribly violent”Adds this French employee, who gets out of his car on Friday 24 June.And it’s a big misconception to see a company of this size sink without anyone talking about it or moving a finger. Internally, we are remaking the film, and I think it was planned that they had long planned to close OrsayShe hurries into the building one last time without looking back, to attend the drink that the employees spontaneously arrange on Friday, June 24th.
Alexandra and Desiree worked in the same department at Orsay, Desiree had already left 2 years ago, thanks to her Alexandra found a job in the energy sector this year. The two colleagues are happy to continue working together. Finding in textiles is almost impossible in the region.
Anna managed to find work in the same sector. She worked at Orsay for 5 years, she was a specialist in clothing techniques. Now she will soon start in a company in Oberkirch, which manufactures protective clothing for companies. “I did not understand what was going on, so I immediately searched for something else“explains this young German.”Today we are having a farewell party, for more than colleagues, some are friends. Here, at the slightest stroke, everyone who was mutual help helped. All service went to our coke’s wedding. But now we have to meet again? Many will have to move. “
“To be thrown out after 25 years, without anything, without thanks, just a “goodbye”, it’s hard“, launches this French employee in front of the door of the company. She is angry at her management:”we trusted them, they told us there were buyers. And then came the war, and investors left. Well, that was what we were led to believe. Because Gordon Brothers had already been there for several months, the pen ready to sign.“
The bankruptcy application was notified to employees in early March. Everyone therefore understood that they had three months to take steps to find a new job. German laws are less protective than French laws: employees left with unemployment but no further compensation based on seniority.
Some Frenchmen are surprised. “We were dropped by the Mulliez group“, some say.”In fact, people in Germany earn perhaps more. But in case of dismissal, we’re just told to go, and that’s it! There is no strike, no union and we have the right to nothing, it’s a little hard“, Sums up another employee.