PARIS — French leather goods brand Lancel hosted a dinner at its historic store across from the Paris Opera on Thursday to celebrate its collaboration with influencer-turned-designer Jeanne Damas on a version of its signature bucket bag, signaling a new era of growth for the brand after several challenging years.
Tables were decked out in colorful mismatched glasses and crockery for the dinner by French chef Pierre Touitou, accompanied by a live piano performance. Italian entrepreneur Marco Palmieri said it was the first collaboration since his accessories and luggage company Piquadro SpA acquired Lancel in 2018.
Having successfully weathered the antigovernment gilets jaunes protests and the coronavirus pandemic, Lancel is expected to return to profit in the 2021-22 financial year, which ends on March 31, Palmieri reported.
Sales between April and December totaled 45.8 million euros, up 32.6 percent versus the same period a year earlier, with all channels improving. Wholesale was up 46.3 percent, retail 29.7 percent and e-commerce 29.1 percent, Lancel said in its most recent financial statement in January.
When Piquadro bought the company from Compagnie Financière Richemont, it had an annual turnover of around 53 million euros, with negative earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of approximately 23 million euros.
“The turnover this year is higher that the pre-COVID[-19] situation,” Palmieri told WWD, noting that the brand opened 10 stores in Asia during 2020 and 2021, in addition to locations in Germany, France and Russia. “Now we’ve found a new stability and we hope to start to grow fast again.”
In 2022, Lancel plans to open another five stores in China, one in Malaysia and one in Vietnam, Palmieri said. It was also due to open an additional two stores in Russia, though that project is temporarily suspended as the European Union has banned the export of luxury goods to Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
As part of its turnaround plan, Piquadro appointed Barbara Fusillo as head of design in 2017 and moved manufacturing to Italy. The brand maintains an important foothold in Paris, having recently inaugurated its new headquarters in an Art Deco building in the 8th arrondissement, where its design studio is based.
The Opera flagship, open since 1929, is a landmark for many locals, including Damas herself. “This square is so incredible. When you look at this view, you feel really privileged,” she said, pointing at the light-flooded façade of the opera house.
“What I love is that we all have a memory associated with this brand,” Damas continued. “It’s luxury, but it feels accessible because it seems like everyone’s grandmother, at least if you’re Parisian or French, had a Lancel handbag. That was definitely the case for me, so I really feel like it’s part of the fashion landscape in France.”
The founder of the Rouje label is a big fan of straw baskets, so she wanted to translate that spirit into her version of the Chéri bag.
“I use them winter and summer, so the challenge was how to make a leather handbag that looks like a basket. We ended up using a woven leather technique that gives it a real luxury feel,” she explained. “They had never worked with woven leather before so it’s cool, because it’s a real collaboration. We didn’t just change the color of the bag.”
Available in two colorways, Snow and Carmine, the bag retails for $1,850. Palmieri and Damas celebrated their partnership on the dance floor by dancing wildly to a selection of French pop hits.