PARIS — A new era at Marc Jacobs International is taking shape.
Parent LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has named Givenchy chief executive officer Sebastian Suhl, one of its most promising young executives, the new ceo at the American fashion house, effective in September, WWD has learned.
The appointment puts an American executive with a strong international profile in the driver’s seat, setting the stage for a new chapter at the company.
Pierre-Yves Roussel, chairman and ceo of LVMH Fashion Group, said immediate projects would likely include ramping up e-commerce, expanding the brand’s retail footprint in the U.S. and developing the footwear category, recently taken in-house.
Now chairman at Jacobs, Roussel said Suhl would take action on multiple fronts, including rejuvenating collection accessories.
“The company has grown very fast over the last five or six years. We have to structure it for the next phase,” he said in an interview, hinting at additional hires to “build and add new capabilities.”
Roussel noted that Suhl, 46, who joined Givenchy in 2012 after an 11-year career at Prada Group, would also help LVMH and Jacobs prepare the company for an eventual initial public offering, a step he characterized as several years down the road.
“He knows what it takes to go through this process,” Roussel said, alluding to Prada Group’s listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2011.
Meanwhile, another internal talent, Philippe Fortunato, 49, is to succeed Suhl at the management helm of Givenchy. Fortunato recently left his post at Louis Vuitton, where he was president and ceo of the North Asia region, as reported.
A veteran at LVMH, Fortunato is among a cache of high-potential managers who have been groomed for a ceo role.
Before taking on his most recent Hong Kong-based post for Vuitton, he was managing director of Fendi, and worked for Christian Dior and Vuitton in China. Earlier in his career, Fortunato spent two years in the French navy, after which he worked for French lingerie firm Chantelle and Dubai-based retailer Chalhoub Group.
He is expected to carry on an ambitious project, ignited last year, to magnify Givenchy’s retail footprint and capitalize on the brand momentum and buzz fueled by its creative director, Riccardo Tisci.
Givenchy plans to open about 25 boutiques this year, part of strategic thrust to have direct retail contributing half of revenues by 2015, up from about a quarter in 2012.
Market sources estimate the brand posted 2013 revenues north of 200 million euros, or $270 million at current exchange, and it is gunning to reach the half-billion-euro threshold within the next several years, leapfrogging it into the leagues of other LVMH brands such as Fendi and Céline.
Roussel said Fortunato would leverage his extensive experience in retail, and familiarity with international markets, to sustain Givenchy’s growth trajectory, headlined by a near doubling of like-for-like sales last year in its existing store network.
Roussel described Jacobs and Givenchy as “strategic brands for the group.”
Suhl will arrive at Jacobs less than a year after the designer wrapped a stellar 16-year career as Vuitton’s first artistic director to focus on his signature fashion house, and prepare it ultimately for the stock market.
LVMH is angling to unlock the full potential of the business now that it has Jacobs’ full attention, and to exploit rapid growth in the contemporary category with the Marc by Marc Jacobs franchise. (Nicolas Ghesquière succeeded Jacobs at Vuitton, and was named artistic director of women’s collections last November.)
At Jacobs, Suhl is to succeed Bertrand Stalla-Bourdillon, an LVMH veteran who has held the ceo post at Jacobs since 2006. It is understood he is to be reassigned within the group, which spans more than 60 brands across fashion and leather goods, watches and jewelry, perfumes and cosmetics, selective retailing, and wines and spirits.
When Jacobs parted ways with Vuitton, LVMH reconfigured its business relations with him and his longtime business partner, Robert Duffy.
Previously, LVMH and the two men each owned one-third of the Jacobs trademarks, while LVMH held almost complete control of the operating company. The entities were merged, giving the French conglomerate an 80 percent stake and Jacobs and Duffy the balance.
In its 2013 reference document, LVMH said the American company recorded “steady” growth, driven by “rapid gains” in Marc by Marc Jacobs accessories, in particular the Dr. Q and Too Hot to Handle handbag styles.
LVMH also noted Jacobs’ new color cosmetics line, exclusive to Sephora, “met with great success” and added that Jacobs’ operations in China “are being acquired on a direct basis.”
It is understood the brand is approaching the billion-dollar leagues, having extended itself into children’s wear, bookstores and fragrances.
Roussel has been spending more time in the U.S. over the past year to better familiarize himself with the market and to rejuvenate the French group’s two main businesses there: Jacobs and Donna Karan International.
Roussel is believed to be formulating a new strategy for Karan that is likely to involve new executive and creative appointments. Roussel also oversees the fashion houses Céline, Loewe, Kenzo, Emilio Pucci, Edun and Nicholas Kirkwood.
Suhl holds an M.B.A. from the Barcelona business school Esade, and joined Prada in 2001 as general manager of France, following stints at Deloitte & Touche and the fashion houses Courrèges and Thimister.
Polyglot and full of energy, he was promoted to Prada’s ceo in the Asia-Pacific region in 2005, where he spearheaded the Italian firm’s retail expansion. In 2009, he was named group chief operating officer, which had him reporting to ceo Patrizio Bertelli, and heading the retail, wholesale, e-commerce and marketing departments for the Prada, Miu Miu and Car Shoe brands.
Fortunato becomes the fifth ceo at Givenchy since Tisci arrived in 2005. Marco Gobbetti, the executive who had recruited Tisci, in 2008 was promoted to the ceo post at Céline, an earlier example of internal mobility within the sprawling luxury empire.
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