Severine Merle

PARIS — A rare luxury holdout from e-commerce, Céline is expected to introduce online selling later this year under a new chief executive officer, WWD has learned.

This story first appeared in the February 24, 2017 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The French fashion house has recruited its next leader from within the ranks of parent LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, tapping Berluti’s Séverine Merle to succeed Marco Gobbetti.

Currently executive vice president at the men’s luxury brand, Merle is to start at Céline on April 1 and will report to Pierre-Yves Roussel, chairman and ceo of LVMH Fashion Group.

Roussel had been acting as interim ceo at Céline since Gobbetti departed in January for Burberry, where he is to become the British firm’s ceo on July 4 after a stint as its executive chairman, Asia-Pacific and Middle East.

Merle, who worked under Berluti chairman Antoine Arnault, is a veteran of LVMH, having worked at its flagship Vuitton brand as its general manger for France and women’s wear merchandising director.

She started her LVMH career at Kenzo, moving on to its tony Paris department store Le Bon Marché, first as director of image and later as commercial director.

Her successor at Berluti has yet to be named.

Confirming the appointment in an exclusive interview, Roussel said Merle would apply her product and retail expertise to a solid business foundation.

“We see this as a smooth transition building on the project and continuing the momentum of the brand,” he said. “Séverine represents a good fit with the culture of the brand.”

Footwear and fine jewelry are among categories with expansion potential, he noted.

As for digital, Céline plans to build its own e-commerce site and would likely launch in some markets by the end of the year.

“We believe it’s important that we show the breadth and depth of the collection,” Roussel said. “We want to be very product focused. It’s always been the motto of [creative director] Phoebe Philo since the very beginning.”

Merle becomes the fourth female ceo within the French luxury group and continues a long tradition of internal mobility at LVMH, drawing on its deep management reserves across fashion and leather goods, watches and jewelry, perfumes and cosmetics, wines and spirits, and specialty retailing.

Last September, Roussel appointed Pascale Lepoivre as ceo of Loewe. Previously, she was the number-two executive at Céline under Gobbetti, and also rose through the ranks of Vuitton.

Gobbetti had been at the helm of Céline since 2008, arriving in tandem with Philo and engineering a swift rejuvenation and overhaul of the brand.

Philo is to parade her fall collection on March 5 during Paris Fashion Week.

LVMH does not break out financials for individual fashion houses. But, according to market sources, Céline has more than quadrupled in size since Philo arrived, with revenues now in the ballpark of 800 million euros, or $844.8 million at current exchange.

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