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NEW YORK — France will be lucky to have him back.
That was the sentiment last Wednesday as friends and co-workers gathered to bid adieu to Francois Damide, the U.S. president of Solstiss/Bucol. The Frenchman is moving back to Paris next week to become the marketing and development consultant for Solstiss, the high-end lace mill based in Caudry, a small town north of Paris known for its lace production.
A Caudry native, Damide began working for Solstiss in 1985 as the assistant export manager for Europe, moving here in 1986 to head the company’s U.S. office. In 1995, he signed on as the U.S. agent for Bucol, the Lyon, France-based silk mill owned by Hermès.
“I never expected my time here would turn out to be this successful,” said Damide, who remains a shareholder in Solstiss Inc. the mill’s U.S. division. “I have to say, American designers are a pleasure to work with and I learned so much from them. I am very thankful to Seventh Avenue for making my dreams come true.”
At Damide’s party — which was held at the Solstiss/Bucol offices on Seventh Avenue and catered by Payard — Herve Pierre, design director at Carolina Herrera and a fellow Frenchman, was quick to point out Damide’s transformation over the last 20 years. “He’s French, of course, but he worked more than 35 hours a week and was never on strike,” he quipped, “so I believe he became a New Yorker.”
Another countryman, Jean-Francois Ricat, director of couture at J. Mendel, has known and worked with Damide for a decade. “Francois is one of the most knowledgeable people in fabrics, and especially in lace, that I have ever met,” he said.
Designer Derek Lam first met Damide in 1987 while working at Michael Kors. “He was one of the first people I met in fabrics,” he said. “Then, when I started my own collection, he really extended himself to me. You can tell the minute you meet him that he has a very generous spirit. I know he’s leaving a lot of fans behind in New York.”
Damide will be replaced by Benoit Breal, the former U.S. manager of Editions d’Art de Rambouillet, a company specializing in embossed leather and printed fabric for the high-end home furnishings market. “He’s the right person for the job,” said Damide. “I have confidence that he will continue to grow the U.S. business for both Solstiss and Bucol.”