PARIS — Balmain, the French fashion and fragrance house whose image has floundered since the departure of couturier Oscar de la Renta in July 2002, on Thursday said it had filed for the French equivalent of Chapter 11 debt protection.

A spokesman said it was unclear if the runway presentation of Balmain’s ready-to-wear and couture collections would be affected. “It’s not the end of Balmain,” he insisted. “Clothes will continue to be produced.”

But sources said it was unlikely Balmain would go forward with its couture outing this July, which was to be the first by French designer Christophe Lebourg.

Balmain said it filed for debt protection after an Asian equity partner reneged on an agreement to invest $5.9 million, or 5 million euros, in the troubled business.

Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at current exchange.

The house declined to provide the name of its supposed Asian partner and Balmain president Alain Hivelin was unavailable for comment. Balmain, which employs some 160 people, said it would seek other investors.

“The capital infusion would have allowed Balmain to ride out the crisis in the luxury industry after Sept. 11 and [during] a very difficult 2003,” the house said in a statement.

The spokesman said Balmain’s sales declined by more than half last year to $13.6 million, or 11.5 million euros, from $29.5 million, or 25 million euros, a year earlier.

Since de la Renta left, Balmain has been unable to find its footing. It recruited French designer Laurent Mercier, who already designed Balmain’s rtw, to oversee the couture after de la Renta’s departure, but his debut collection last year was weak and he and the house parted ways.

Lebourg was then tapped to spearhead rtw and was scheduled to make his couture debut in July. So far, his first two rtw efforts for the house have received tepid reviews.

— Robert Murphy

To access this article, click here to subscribe or to log in.

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus