PARIS — A leather goods specialist established in Paris in 1876, Lancel boasts brand awareness in France approaching 100 percent, according to the company.
Cross the border and it’s a different story: Lancel has no retail presence in Italy, the U.K., Japan or the U.S., to name but a few important markets for luxury goods.
Fabrizio Cardinali, the company’s energetic new chief executive officer, is gearing up to remedy that situation, plotting a modernized product range and a communication strategy hinged on the brand and its heritage, shifting the focus away from French celebrity ambassadors like Isabelle Adjani, Laure Manaudou and Alice Taglioni.
During an exclusive interview at Lancel’s new headquarters in a 19th-century town house, Cardinali disclosed plans to name a new creative director, expand its footprint in fast-growing Asia, revitalize its travel business, expand assortments for men and ramp up its upscale offering in exotic skins.
“We have great potential,” Cardinali said, characterizing his mission as a “relaunch” of the brand, owned since 1997 by luxury group Compagnie Financière Richemont. “I think we have fantastic potential to bring this brand to the next level, to make it international.”
While declining to give numbers, Cardinali said about three-quarters of the Lancel business is generated in France, with the rest stemming largely from Asia-Pacific, Russia and the Middle East.
Roughly 80 percent of sales are done through its network of 90 directly operated stores and corners. Its only European location outside of France is on Boulevard de Waterloo in Brussels.
While Lancel has been logging growth the past five years, Cardinali allows that the brand is lagging behind its French peers. In the Eighties, Lancel was similar in size to Louis Vuitton, which — along with other storied 19th-century leather goods purveyors, Hermès and Goyard — is its closest industry peer, he said.
Indeed, Cardinali calls Lancel a “sleeping beauty” he plans to wake up with more contemporary products and by celebrating the brand’s rich history and legacy.
Given the market’s strong growth vector, China will be a key focus, he said, allowing that Lancel is no longer exposed in prime locations in Asia. Trips to the region meeting with top landlords — he has already made three since joining the company from Dolce & Gabbana last October — are key to remedying that situation, a process he allowed would take about 18 months.
“They’ve been responsive because the market is hungry for new leather goods brands, especially ones with strong heritage,” he explained.
Enlarging the selection of products for men is also vital for China, still a male-driven market. Flipping the merchandising focus to men at its Macau location lead to an immediate 25 to 30 percent bump in sales, Cardinali noted.
Modernizing the product ranges “with a twist of fashion” includes some upscaling of quality and pricing. He noted that 60 percent of the Lancel handbag business comes from products priced at retail from 600 euros to 1,500 euros, or $790 to $1,980 at current exchange.
Cardinali is also planning to develop the business in the Middle East and Europe.
Before Christmas, Lancel began offering customers in Paris and Moscow the chance to order bags in crocodile, ostrich, python or other exotic skins, yielding a strong consumer response.
A new print campaign that recently broke in Paris Vogue telegraphs the new Lancel image. Shot by Patrick Demarchelier at Lancel headquarters, it depicts a model whisking through a room wearing a white shirt and cream trousers, an L bag slung from her shoulder. “We need to bring freshness and more life to the brand,” Cardinali said.
The L bag, named after the shape of the gold hardware trimming the flap, retails for 1,290 euros, or $1,700. It reached stores in mid-March and “started very well,” Cardinali noted.
The clasp, first invented in the Forties, was culled from Lancel’s archive, which the house is cataloguing and enriching by combing auction sales. “I totally think we have a gold mine in terms of inspiration for designers,” Cardinali said.
Founder Angèle Lancel — who created her first handbag circa 1900 — had a penchant for uncluttered, ladylike styles loaded with hidden surprises, including unexpected compartments and accessories ranging from portable ashtrays to a bedazzled notebook.
In keeping with that legacy, the L bag boasts a zippered leather pouch inside that can be removed and employed as a clutch or an iPad carrier.
Lancel plans to name a new creative director in the coming months, following the resignation in February of its longtime designer Leonello Borghi, who is relocating to New York for personal reasons, Cardinali said.
Collections for fall 2014 and spring 2015 will be the first to completely reflect Lancel’s new design direction. Cardinali also noted Lancel would recalibrate its collection cycles to more closely match its global competitors.
Other initiatives include an overhaul of Lancel’s digital communication. A new-look Web site equipped for e-commerce is to be unveiled later this year, Cardinali said.
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty