The company became the sub-licensor for the whole of France in March after signing an agreement with Alex Reid, GreenEarth master licensor for the UK and Ireland.

IRN will open its first stores, sited in Paris, Lyon and St Etienne, during the third quarter of this year and all will offer both GreenEarth drycleaning and wetcleaning.

Marty Brucato, IRN’s vice president of operations and technology, says that tighter legislative controls on the use perc, the predominant solvent in France, are prompting cleaners to investigate alternative drycleaning technologies.

The company plans to have 20 wholly owned stores by 2006, with 30 franchise stores and around 20 independent cleaners, all of them operating the silicone-based GreenEarth system. Brucato says IRN plans to convert existing stores, rather than creating new ones.

The network will grow as the GreenEarth concept gains wider acceptance, and by 2011 IRN expects to have 150 owned stores, 235 franchise operations and around 210 independent operators.

“The aim is to offer customers something more, moving away from the low price, lower quality end of the market,” said Brucato.

A Californian who grew up in the drycleaning industry, he founded his De La Bourdonnais business in Paris at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, catering to an upmarket clientele.

“Here in France we have an excellent opportunity for a medium priced national chain that carries an important ecologically-sound message and places far greater emphasis on customer service,” says Brucato

Frenchman Alexandre Azoulay is IRN’s vice president of environmental and strategic relations. He obtained his MBA at Harvard in the USA, where one of his case studies was Zoots, the USA-based drycleaning company founded in 1998. Azoulay returned to France convinced that a national chain of drycleaners with an environmentally sound technology could work in his native country.

The third partner is Eric Lesieur, president and director of retail operations and financial planning, who has extensive knowledge of the retail market in France, most recently with Alain Afflelou, the country’s major optical franchise operation.

The name of the chain is still to be confirmed, but PureClean or Pure are possible choices.