By  on December 26, 2000

PARIS -- The house of Louis Feraud is on the move, again.

Only six months after naming a new creative director and chief executive officer, the French house has installed another new leader, secured new, slightly unorthodox digs and has a host of other projects up its sleeve, not the least of which is its first ready-to-wear show in years in Paris next March.

Peter Heijt, Feraud's new president and ceo, outlined the changes in a joint interview with Yvan Mispelaere, the former Prada and Valentino designer brought in to overhaul the house's image.

"This used to be a ceramics factory," Heijt remarked upon entering the still-vacant space in the 10th Arrondissement that will soon house Feraud's design studies and administration offices.

It's an unusual address for a couture house, but he and Mispelaere both said it's symbolic of the way the company is making a break with the past and charting a more modern course, a year after the death of its namesake designer. Feraud died on Dec. 28, 1999.

Mispelaere said he's keen to have all design staff, for couture, rtw and licensing, concentrated under one roof. They have been located in various locales around Paris and some in Darmstadt, Germany.

The new headquarters will be the site of Feraud's spring couture show Jan. 23 and Heijt reiterated Secon's commitment to the money-losing top line. The firm sold only a dozen items from Mispelaere's debut couture collection, including two wedding dresses. Mispelaere said he detects a new tendency in couture to buying items rather than total looks.

"There's a way of buying now that involves looking for special things," he said, characterizing the trend as a reaction to years of minimalist and serious investment dressing.

That's why Mispelaere plans to introduce a luxury rtw collection on the runway in March, a complement to the suits and occasion dressing that remain the bread and butter of the company. Although the collection had been segmented in the past, with casual looks labeled Contraire Louis Feraud and suit looks Louis Feraud Pret-a-Porter, the full breadth of looks will now come under one banner.

Heijt said he's projecting sales growth of 25 percent for the fall season based on the new fashion direction and the addition of the luxury sportswear. This year, sales of rtw at Feraud reached about $45.7 million at wholesale, with about half of that amount derived from the U.S. market. Overall, the brand generates about $91.4 million at wholesale. Dollar figures are converted from the German mark at current exchange ratesHeijt was quietly named the new ceo of Feraud last month. Previously, he was a group vice president and board member of Secon and has been with the company for 18 months.

Heijt succeeds Rafael Labrador, who had joined Secon from Eastpak Corp. According to Heijt, Labrador had been impatient with the long-term approach the company had decided to take in its efforts to revitalize the brand.

Mispelaere and Heijt stressed the house has many avenues of growth ahead of it, including footwear, fragrance and accessories. U.S. licenses include fur, fine jewelry and bathing suits. And the financial picture, despite heavy investments in the brand, is improving.

Heijt said Feraud is on track to break even in 2000, whereas the brand was losing as much as $27 million a year when Secon first acquired some Feraud apparel business starting in 1997.

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