LONDON — Chanel is spreading its wings on both sides of the Atlantic, with a promotion in the fashion division in the U.S., and the acquisition of Orlebar Brown in the U.K., both of which speak to the French brand’s global ambitions.
WWD has learned that Emilie de Tramasure, who has been with the French brand since 1998, has been promoted to general manager, Watches and Fine Jewelry at Chanel, Inc., responsible for the U.S. boutique and multibrand retail businesses.
She will oversee merchandising, marketing, visual merchandising, and client and business development and has been charged both with building the U.S. business, and working on global strategy for the category.
De Tramasure reports to John Galantic, president and chief operating officer, Chanel Inc., and replaces Olivier Stip, who will take on a newly created role within the fashion division as head of Watches and Fine Jewelry business development.
During her long tenure at Chanel, de Tramasure worked in Mexico, France and Singapore, and was most recently international head of marketing, fragrance and beauty in Paris.
In that role, she spearheaded the launch of the new Gabrielle Chanel fragrance, the creation of a new makeup product plan and support strategy, and the development of a new skin-care positioning and product innovation pipeline.
Chanel has also been doing a deal in London, acquiring the men’s swimwear and resort brand Orlebar Brown from investors including Piper, and the founder Adam Brown.
The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. In the latest accounts filed at Companies House in the U.K., Orlebar Brown posted 17.6 million pounds in sales and posted a loss of a little more than 1 million pounds in the year ended July 29, 2017.
Chanel announced the news Friday, and said it was attracted to Orlebar Brown as a digital native. The swimwear brand was founded as an online business and has since expanded its network to include more than 250 stockists worldwide, including Selfridges, Mr Porter, Matchesfashion.com and Lane Crawford, and 24 stand-alone boutiques in 11 countries.
More than 40 percent of the business still comes from online.
The brand was born in 2007 with a single product, tailored, flat-front swim trunks in a variety of lengths, at a time when Vilebrequin’s roomy, printed drawstring suits were all the rage. Orlebar Brown did theirs, instead, with little buckles at the side, and in punchy solids or geometric patterns, all with a Sixties jet-set feel.
Some of the latest styles include screen-printed vintage photographs and stills and poster images from the James Bond films. In 2010, the brand expanded into resort wear, around the themes of travel, holiday and sun.
Daniel Craig wore Orlebar Brown trunks as James Bond in “Skyfall” and the brand’s customers include Leonardo DiCaprio, Jay-Z, Michael Fassbender, Tom Brady, Roger Federer and Hugh Jackman.
Chanel said Friday that Orlebar Brown would continue its digitally focused approach and pursue its development internationally, with the opening of new boutiques in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
Chanel said the investment offers myriad opportunities for both names, including “the omnichannel expertise of a well-established brand in digital and e-commerce, and multiple potential synergies” with Chanel’s other brands, in particular Eres, the high-end women’s swimwear label.
The marriage makes sense on more than a digital level: Chanel doesn’t offer any men’s clothing, and last year, the French company denied to WWD that it was plotting a move into men’s wear. That said, the brand has launched its first makeup line for men, a three-product range, starting in South Korea on Sept. 1.
Women’s swimwear is a market that Orlebar Brown had found difficult to crack because there are so many niche competitors, and because the company has little expertise in what is a very specialized sector.
Philippe Blondiaux, global chief financial officer at Chanel, said: “As well as sharing the same values and approach in terms of quality and know-how, this acquisition represents an ideal opportunity for synergy between Orlebar Brown and Eres.
“As a ‘digital native’ brand, Orlebar Brown will enable Eres to strengthen its digital expertise and optimize its omnichannel distribution strategy. Orlebar Brown, on the other hand, will benefit from the retail experience and expertise of a long-standing player in high-quality beachwear.”
Brown, founder and creative director of Orlebar Brown, said that in Chanel, “we have found the perfect home for the brand to continue to thrive and grow. I am very much looking forward to this exciting and enduring partnership and to building Orlebar Brown in the future.”
Chanel said that Adam Brown would continue to lead the business as creative director, alongside chief executive officer Paul Donoghue.
Chanel’s latest acquisition comes amid a flurry of activity in the U.K., where the French brand plans to consolidate its corporate operations. It has also taken 20,000 square feet of office space at the corner of Bruton and New Bond streets that will serve as its new headquarters, and plans to open a new store in Brompton Cross, Chelsea, next month.
Chanel, which is currently occupying a temporary space on Sloane Avenue, will move into its new store on the corner of Walton Street and Draycott Avenue in mid-October. At approximately 10,303 square feet, the new unit will be double the size of the brand’s former Brompton Road store.