PARIS — With no public sign yet of the cash injection pledged by Taiwanese media magnate Shaw-Lan Wang in the coming weeks, French fashion label Lanvin faces an uphill battle to alleviate concerns about its financial health.
Majority owner Wang last month said she would inject funds into the company to “support future initiatives,” noting the plan was also to announce “several areas of development” in the coming weeks.
“We haven’t heard anything new,” about additional funds for the company, said an employee who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
One source suggested new funds might come in the form of a license deal to create hotels and resorts under the Lanvin name, but a company spokeswoman denied such a project was in the works: “There is currently no license project — that is not part of the house’s strategy today.”
A general assembly meeting with the company’s board and management initially planned for today has been postponed, and a new date has not been set, the spokeswoman said.
“Management is working very, very hard to ensure that things go well,” she added.
In another test for Lanvin, Wang is due to appear at an arbitration hearing at the International Chamber of Commerce today in a case that pits the Lanvin owner against the label’s former creative director, Alber Elbaz, sources told WWD.
Elbaz is seeking outstanding compensation from his past employer, according to sources; the designer was dismissed in October 2015 before the end of his contract. Elbaz, who drove the label’s striking ascent over a 14-year period, is said to be asking for around nine months of outstanding salary. Two years ago, a lawyer representing the Lanvin works council, Isabelle Schucké-Niel of law firm Schucké-Niel Avocats, estimated the severance package for Elbaz could reach between 20 million and 40 million euros.
Johann Sultan of CBR & Associés, at the time, countered that it was up to Elbaz to reimburse excess payments, saying the designer had been compensated in advance for work through the end of 2015.
It is also understood Elbaz holds an equity stake in Lanvin via a Luxembourg-based holding known as Blue Water. Elbaz’s lawyer declined to comment Tuesday. Sultan did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and Schuké-Niel said she is no longer involved in the case.
Lanvin has struggled to find its footing since departing with Elbaz, following disagreements between the designer and Wang over the company’s direction. Recent change at the company includes the appointment of two successive creative directors and a new chief executive officer amid the resignation of board members. Following the July appointment of Olivier Lapidus as designer, replacing Bouchra Jarrar after an only two-season run, two board members including minority shareholder Ralph Bartel resigned.
As previously reported, an auditor for the label recently issued a warning over its financial situation. Sales have been in decline since a peak of 235 million euros in 2012, falling 23 percent to 162 million euros last year when the house marked a net loss of 18.3 million euros — its first loss in nearly a decade.
The financial situation has put Lanvin under pressure to sell assets or grant licenses to raise cash, with one source estimating while there are “a few months in the till,” the company could run out of money in the near future.
Funds injected into Lanvin since Wang acquired the company in 2001 from L’Oréal have come from selling off parts of the business, sources said. This includes a license deal in 2002 with Itochu Corp., allowing the Japanese company to import and produce Lanvin products in Japan.
As reported, the company is said to have the option in 2025 to buy back its trademark registrations in the cosmetics class that Wang sold for 22 million euros to Interparfums SA in August 2007. The investment community frowned on the move at the time, saying it diminished the valuation of the fashion house.
The price Lanvin would pay in 2025 is linked to its turnover in the category generated by Interparfums SA. Interparfums SA is believed to have suggested to Lanvin this summer that it could postpone that option by a decade in exchange for a cash payment now, an idea sources said was welcomed by Wang as a means to inject money into the Lanvin fashion business.
Given the current complexity of the situation at Lanvin’s fashion activity, discussions about postponing the trademark license are off the table, according to industry sources. Philippe Benacin, chairman and ceo of Interparfums SA, could not be reached for comment.