Eric Labaume

Jean Paul Gaultier said Monday that president Eric Labaume has left the company after 15 months to pursue new professional goals.

PARIS — Jean Paul Gaultier said Monday that president Eric Labaume has left the company after 15 months to pursue “new professional goals.” A successor has yet to be named.

Managing director Christophe Caillaud will assume day-to-day operations in the interim, a Gaultier spokesman said.

Sources suggested that Labaume had become frustrated in finding additional avenues of improvement at a company he once described as “traditional” in its methods and culture.

Labaume, 54, joined Gaultier from Balmain and was charged with improving the fortunes of the French house, which lost money in 2003 and 2004. Gaultier said in a press release that Labaume put into place a restructuring plan, which helped the company — reeling from heavy investments in retail stores, new offices and its money-losing couture — reach breakeven last year and put it on track to be profitable this year.

In 2005, consolidated sales at Gaultier rose 7 percent to 28.7 million euros, according to the annual report of Hermès International, which has owned a 35 percent stake in Gaultier since 1999.

The figure reflects mainly licensing royalties from ready-to-wear, perfumes and accessories, as well as direct sales from couture and its boutiques. However, rtw sales have been advancing at a double-digit rate, buoyed by a string of hit collections.

A soft-spoken executive with professorial airs, Labaume could not immediately be reached for comment. He succeeded Donald Potard, a childhood friend of the designer who had spent more than a decade leading the company, but who had come under increasing pressure to turn the famed designer’s madcap creativity into profits.

Months after moving into a swanky 50,000-square-foot headquarters with a Philippe Starck décor in early 2005, Gaultier laid off 31 workers in a bid to save its money-losing couture business and lift the house out of the red.

Although tight cost controls were a hallmark of Labaume’s tenure, he also sought to bring a greater sense of order to the company and revitalize categories such as men’s wear, eyewear and accessories.

Separately on Monday, Gaultier named Alessandro Ferreri to be international commercial director, overseeing Gaultier’s various ready-to-wear and accessories lines and with additional responsibilities for development of boutiques. He succeeds Marie Fages, who left the company.

This story first appeared in the July 18, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Previously, Ferreri was general manager for the Middle East and Far East area for the Italian group Aeffe SpA, maker of Gaultier’s collection line. He reports to Caillaud.

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