November 2, 2020

Legal Spotlight: Ludovic Bayle, Head of Legal at Vestiaire Collective

Discover the spotlight of Ludovic Bayle, from his beginnings as a lawyer at Hermès to becoming Head of Legal at Vestiaire Collective.

Legal Ops

Vestaire Collective is a French platform specialising in luxury second-hand clothing that allows fashion pieces to extend their life by being put back into circulation.

Founded in 2009, the company now has several million members in more than 50 countries in Europe, the United States, Asia and Australia.

With more than 200 million euros raised, 300 employees spread across the four corners of the globe and a dazzling growth, the figures of this scale-up of the Next 40 are impressive.

This is why we went to meet Ludovic Bayle, Head of Legal at Vestiaire Collective in order to better understand the role of the legal department in the company.

After a few years at Hermès, Shiseido and Christian Dior, Ludovic joined Vestiaire Collective in 2017. For you, he looks back at the major projects he has carried out since his arrival.

Hello Ludovic and thank you for accepting our invitation!

First of all, can you introduce yourself? What's been your career path?

I have been the head of the Legal Department of Vestiaire Collective for almost 4 years and I have been working as a lawyer in companies for a little over 10 years.

I followed a fairly standard university course in private law, with a focus on business law, completed by a specialisation in intellectual property and new technology law at the CUERPI in Grenoble.

There were, of course, the first experiences in a law firm, then with an industrial property consultancy, until I discovered the in-house side fo things by joining Hermès International for my debut.

Throughout my career, I have sought - in addition to my IP/IT specialisation - to broaden my fields of expertise. I believe that it is essential to keep a constant interest in the activity you are doing, an open mind and therefore diversity. Both the law and my managers over time have given me this opportunity.

What a career, congratulations! You have spent a good part of your career in large companies. Why did you choose to join a company like Vestiaire Collective?

Perhaps we should start by saying that between large groups there can already be fundamental differences, which there was for me between Hermès and the LVMH group.

When I chose to join Vestiaire Collective, I wanted to find values that were in line with my own, to get closer to an agile operation and to move towards a project that would be meaningful.

I was inevitably attracted by the startup's ambition around circularity, but also by the pivotal period in which Vestiaire Collective found itself and was seeking to structure its legal approach to support its international growth.

Finally, I must add to this the fact that I found the opportunity to legally combine two themes that are dear to me professionally: luxury/fashion, a sector in which I have made my mark, and e-commerce.

It's true that the challenge looks like a dream on paper!

Can you tell us about your role within the company? Has it evolved over the last four years?

My primary role is, of course, to protect and defend the interests of the company for which I work. I have set up a central Legal Department, which means that I intervene with my team at the level of the parent company, but also for all of the subsidiaries around the world.

Another natural thread of the function that I occupy within Vestiaire Collective: the structuring of the global legal approach within the company, but also the advice to the different departments and to the operational staff in their projects.

In addition, as data is a significant asset for a marketplace such as ours, I hold the position of DPO.

Beyond the strategic dimension of the position of Legal Director/DPO that I hold, I make it a point of honour to remain close to the field, to the teams, in order to understand their needs and to accompany them as closely as possible.

These roles have necessarily evolved as the company has grown, as its business model has evolved, and at the pace of its ambitions, which are stronger than ever. It's very exciting!

Yes, I suppose so! And to do all this I hope you are not alone, are you?

After having started alone (with the support of an intern), I am now surrounded by Marie-Caroline and Clémence who carry the colours of the legal department within Vestiaire Collective.

The managerial dimension of my role is a complementary driving force and the lawyers in my team maintain a high standard.

Schematically, the distribution is mainly done by major themes (contract-communication-marketing/corporate-compliance). The idea is that each department should have a dedicated contact person.

We are one of the smallest departments in the company but we are - and this is a good sign - very much in demand. This means that we need to maintain a generalist approach but the team will certainly be expanded in the short or medium term.

That's a good sign for the future! What is your position today in the company? Are you on the management committee?

A sensitive subject (laughs)! I report to the CFO and am not part of the management committee. Honestly, I make no secret of the fact that, for me, the hierarchical link between the Legal Department and the CFO is nonsense, but we have to admit that this is the choice made by many companies, including Vestiaire Collective.

I am lucky enough to work with a person who respects legal expertise, supports the work of the team and lets me operate independently with my team. This is essential!

A sensitive subject indeed (laughs)! I'm asking you this question mainly to find out what place is given to legal issues in a Next40 scale-up such as Vestiaire Collective?

An increasingly strong place I hope - that's what we're working on in any case. The legislative and more general regulatory pressure on marketplaces is constantly increasing - more or less justifiably so.

I think that, in this context, everyone is well aware that the role of a legal department in this environment is key and that to do without it would be to take the risk of compromising a great deal and even the future of the company.

What have been the major projects that you have carried out over the last three years?

There are many, but if I have to choose a few highlights...

The fundraising (€40 million in 2019, €59 million for the last round last April) with the corporate and shareholder relations dimensions that it implies has taken up a good part of my time. This is a clear sign of the attractiveness of our business around sustainable fashion.

The international expansion accompanied by the creation of local subsidiaries mainly in Asia (Hong Kong and Singapore). There is also the monitoring of compliance with the GDPR and the support of important evolutions for the platform, the implementation of direct mailing or chat for our user community.

Exciting, well done! Have you implemented any tech tools or processes to increase the efficiency of your team? Do you plan to do so?

The tech approach is inevitable in the structuring of a legal department and perhaps even more so in a company where the IT dimension is so strong.

The main tool we have at this stage and which I put in place when I arrived is a database allowing the monitoring of contracts and their deadlines and the electronic signature is essential in times of pandemic.

The constant challenge, in my opinion, is to reduce as much as possible the tasks with low added value and I'm certain that LegalTech can help us and that we can do better.

It is often said that the legal profession is evolving. Do you also see this at your level?

Absolutely, the legal profession is evolving. It is important to keep a solid legal foundation, but the anchoring in everyday life that I described in the introduction implies a more pragmatic approach than ever. A scale-up like ours makes room for a modern vision of our role.

How do you continue to educate yourself on a daily basis?

I regularly take part in conferences (which have become webinars since the health crisis) to keep up with legal news. There are also newsletters that allow me to keep an eye on current issues.

And outside of work, where can you be found?

I'm a fan of good restaurants and can usually be found at the Bar des Prés in Paris (or the Dragon - the excellent cocktail bar just across the street).

A final word to Tomorro blog readers?

Stay optimistic every day and even more so in these uncertain times.

Ready to take control of your contract management?

The Tomorro team