By  on November 27, 2007

PARIS — Capitalizing on a string of hit collections by its designer, Alber Elbaz, Lanvin is embarking on its next growth phase, headlined by a retail rollout and product expansion.

"The indicators are good and the untapped potential is still huge," said Lanvin president Paul Deneve, projecting sales growth in the range of 40 percent for 2008.

Partnering with local retailers, Lanvin plans to open about a dozen boutiques during the next year in the Middle East, Europe and India, he said, mentioning such cities as Istanbul, Dubai, Moscow, Athens and Delhi. Deneve is also scouting for company-owned locations in New York, Los Angeles, London and Milan, aiming to open three to four key locations over the next two years.

"That's a real jump forward in terms of distribution," he said during an exclusive interview. Also coming later this month is an 800-square-foot in-store shop at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. Until now, Barneys New York, one of Lanvin's key American retail partners, has had a lock on the brand in Manhattan.

At present, Lanvin operates 10 company-owned freestanding stores and an another 22 with retail partners, but roughly 70 percent of its business remains wholesale.

Part and parcel of the retail rollout is a new design concept. In September, Lanvin unveiled its first new-look unit at its Paris flagship: raw concrete floors, gleaming lacquer panels, industrial-steel fixtures and vintage Art Deco furnishings.

Deneve said a number of existing stores would be renovated with the design, including its Monaco location and the Paris men's flagship.

The executive declined to give revenue figures for the company, which is owned by Taiwanese publishing magnate Shaw-Lan Wang. But Deneve was unequivocal that Lanvin, fuelled by rapid sales in every product category, is entering a new profitable growth phase, entering the black in 2007 for the first time in years.

But the growth has been controlled. As Elbaz told WWD The Magazine last month, he dislikes the word "momentum" applied to Lanvin. "I'm not sure fashion is just about the here and now," he said. "For me, it's about design and about desire and dreams. Fashion is about creating a need; it's not about momentum. I hate that word. It's the most scary thing."While Elbaz's feminine and influential designs have turned Lanvin into one of the hottest designer brands on the market, the brand's recent success can also be attributed to key structural and organizational changes.

The company's supply chain has been overhauled, shaving more than six weeks off delivery times. Deneve has also beefed up management. In the last six months, he has named executives to head four key business groups: accessories, men's wear, retail and the U.S. region.

Accessories currently account for about a third of Lanvin's sales, and Deneve asserted the brand has "tremendous" room to expand its business in handbags, footwear and costume jewelry.

"The approach is not to find a hit bag or an 'It' bag. The plan is to create a range," Deneve noted.

For next spring, Lanvin is emphasizing three key handbag styles: the Pop clutch and the Partage and Padova bags.

Men's wear has also been explosive, thanks largely to a new fashion line introduced two years ago, overseen by Elbaz and designed by Dior Homme alum Lucas Ossendrijver. Best-selling items include dressy sneakers, glossy loafers, tuxedos and bib-front shirts.

Deneve said spring 2008 men's orders jumped 80 percent as the brand reentered such fashion and luxury-conscious markets as the U.S. and Italy. Deneve noted its classic men's line, now labeled Lanvin 15 Faubourg, has also been updated and is gaining traction.

When Elbaz arrived at Lanvin five years ago, women's wear accounted for only about 10 percent of revenues, Deneve said. Today, that number has rocketed to 65 percent.

Still, Deneve asserted Lanvin had plenty of room to grow in women's ready-to-wear, noting the brand was still not widely distributed in Asia and citing recent expansion into bridalwear and more casual, item-driven styles under the 22 Faubourg label.

At present, 38 percent of Lanvin's revenues derive from Europe, 29 percent from the U.S., 21 percent from the Middle East and Russia, and 12 percent from Asia.

Lanvin already has licenses for eyewear and men's furnishings, but Deneve said no additional categories were pending. "It's about developing the categories we have."

Last August, Lanvin sold its fragrance and cosmetics business to Inter Parfums SA for 22 million euros, or about $30 million, to insure it had the funds necessary to develop the rtw and accessories businesses. It was a move that raised eyebrows in the industry and, according to sources, sent divisive shock waves through the uppermost echelons of the fashion house.Elbaz and Deneve have declined all comment on that transaction. Waving off the question anew, Deneve shifted the discussion to how Lanvin could capitalize on the brand's momentum and invest in expansion.

He stressed, however, that growth would be controlled to preserve the house's "human scale" and family atmosphere, which Elbaz encourages with extensive personal contact among Lanvin's employees, retail partners, consumers and editors.

"He really gives this positive drive to everyone," Deneve said. "It's an intangible, but you can feel the difference in the end."

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