By and  on November 7, 2007

PARIS — Eager to lead the company into a sparkling new phase of development, Baccarat has named its first artistic director, Chafik Gasmi, WWD has learned.

Gasmi — perhaps best known for his role in Sephora's groundbreaking flagship on the Champs-Elysées here as the perfumery's artistic director — also will become a member of the crystal firm's executive management board. He has been artistic director at watch brand Ebel and most recently operated his own design consultancy.

The appointment of Gasmi, 45, is the first strategic volley of fashion veteran Hervé Martin, who joined Baccarat as chief operating officer in September from Salvatore Ferragamo, where he had been general manager, product and marketing.

In an exclusive interview, Martin said having a dedicated artistic director — a first since Baccarat was founded some 243 years ago — would bring a strong creative impulse to the brand, and more design coherence across such diverse product categories as vases, leather goods, watches and stemware. Gasmi is also in charge of merchandising and retail for Baccarat, which operates some 41 boutiques and will open a location in Moscow before yearend.

A veteran of Kenzo, Louis Vuitton and Cartier, Gasmi was selected, Martin said, for his "professional maturity" and breadth of design experience, given Baccarat's recent push into jewelry and accessories, and a forthcoming foray into the luxury hotel business.

He noted that Baccarat would continue to collaborate with external designers for its various collections, with Gasmi acting as the "conductor" across various initiatives. In recent years, Baccarat has collaborated with the likes of fashion maker Kenzo Takada, artist Arik Levy and industrial design wiz Philippe Starck, who did Baccarat's Paris headquarters and lavish Cristal Room restaurant.

Among Gasmi's first orders of business is bolstering Baccarat's product offering: giving better focus to its jewelry, and expanding its range of lighting fixtures, Martin said. He noted that jewelry represents about 17 percent of sales, which totaled 137.9 million euros, or $200.7 million at current exchange, last year.

Born in Algeria and raised in Paris, Gasmi is an architect by training and started his career designing furniture, from the garden variety up to the luxury level. He joined LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 1996 and worked there for eight years at both Sephora and Ebel. In 2004, he set up Chafikdesign and has done several projects in Algeria, including government buildings and apartments, up to and including their crystal chandeliers.Separately on Tuesday, sources said another celebrated French crystal firm, Lalique, is about to change hands. Groupe Pochet is said to be on the verge of selling Lalique to London-based Emerisque Capital, which owns denim brand Lee Cooper.

Lalique, which manufactures crystal, fragrances, accessories and table decorations, generates annual sales of around 70 million euros, or $101 million at current exchange.

Groupe Pochet and Lalique both declined comment Tuesday.

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