By  on January 24, 2005

PARIS — Gucci Group chief executive Robert Polet went hunting for talent at another luxury rival, plucking a veteran executive from Compagnie Financière Richemont to help him tackle his ambitious three-year strategic plan.

On Friday, the Italian luxury group named Isabelle Guichot, currently ceo of both Lancel and Van Cleef & Arpels and a director of Richemont’s management board, as its director of business development, a new post. She reports to Polet and is expected to start in March.

“We are a very small team at the Gucci Group level, so we thought it was an opportunity to build on that,” Polet told WWD.

Gucci was attracted by Guichot’s “deep knowledge of luxury retailing” and skills in managing and developing luxury brands, he added.

Polet declined to say what Guichot’s first assignment might be, but he said she would act “more on a group level” to help him achieve some of the goals outlined last month when he presented his plans. These include doubling the size of Gucci and Bottega Veneta, fixing troubled Boucheron and Sergio Rossi and building the company’s emerging designer names — Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Balenciaga — to profitability by 2007.

Polet also touted Guichot’s hire as further proof that “we are an attractive employer,” alluding to the news earlier this month that Valerie Hermann, women’s ready-to-wear director at Christian Dior and president of John Galliano, was switching luxury camps to become ceo of Gucci Group’s Yves Saint Laurent fashion house.

Reached on Friday, Guichot said it was too early for her to talk in depth about her new job.

During her 19-year career at Richemont, Guichot held a variety of positions with Cartier in the U.S. and Europe. More recently, she helped energize Van Cleef by expanding the product range and making the brand more visible with the press and clients through a series of high-profile launches.

Last year, she was also appointed ceo of Lancel, where she moved swiftly to remodel stores and revamp the product range. For example, she recruited a handful of up-and-coming designers to riff on the house’s classic “bucket” bag in an effort to generate buzz and renew the brand’s fashion currency.In a statement on her exit, Richemont executive chairman Johann Rupert confessed he tried to persuade Guichot to stay, saying her “professionalism and her personality will be sincerely missed.”

At Lancel, Philippe Berlan, who joined the French company as managing director four months ago from T-shirt and children’s wear firm Petit Bateau, will succeed Guichot.

Richemont said Michel Patout, chief financial officer at Van Cleef, would assume management responsibility of the company until further notice.

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