The perfect cashmere sweater falls into a familiar fashion category: that of the seemingly simple but so often elusive ideal, like the right pair of jeans or the ideal white tee. Jean-Victor Meyers, the 29-year-old heir to the L’Oréal empire and the youngest-ever member of the company’s board, realized this himself when he went looking for one such sweater on the racks at different luxury menswear retailers. The fits were boxy and boring, the quality was lacking or the colors were off, and his workarounds—having store-bought pieces altered or waiting for custom orders—were starting to feel tedious. So in 2011 he and one of his closest friends, Louis Leboiteux, launched their own brand, self-assertively named Exemplaire, and set out to make the sweater they couldn’t find in stores.
Sourced from places known for the quality of their cashmere (Mongolia, Nepal, Tibet, India), knit so densely that they don’t pill, and sewn with a slim fit, Exemplaire’s pullovers are now for sale near where Meyers would have gone looking for them a few years ago, at a brand-new, brick-and-mortar storefront in the mix of luxury brands on Paris’s Rue Saint-Honoré. “I like to think that it’s a very contemporary line,” Meyers says. He lists off some of the keywords that he and Leboiteux have kept in mind as they’ve expanded their brand: “elegant, subtle, effortless, minimalist, and versatile.” Alongside their knits and casual, ready-to-wear items like sweatshirts, T-shirts, and scarves (most made from grade-A cashmere), they’ve also started selling leather goods that are just as obsessively sleek and high quality, in classics like smooth calfskin, and exotics like alligator and ostrich.
The store, carved out behind its building’s ornate 17th-century facade, is its own exercise in minimalism—dark gray concrete, unfinished stone, and stark, off-white walls. Meyers says the design was inspired by Chelsea’s contemporary-art galleries, and, indeed, the clothes inside (including a women’s capsule collection) call to mind that New York-Paris, pared-down, young-creative uniform: all luxe materials, skinny fits, and dark colors. “To me,” he says, a true member of that tribe, “everything looks better in black!”