Jean-Jacques Guével

Balmain has tapped Zadig & Voltaire chief executive officer Jean-Jacques Guével as its new ceo, multiple sources told WWD.

The Paris-based fashion house confirmed the appointment and said Guével would “support the expansion of the house, the development of its accessories lines and further accelerate Balmain’s international growth.” He is to start in February.

It’s the latest in a flurry of executive changes at European fashion houses over the past year.

Guével succeeds Massimo Piombini, who stepped down at Balmain last month after a two-year stint for personal reasons. His next move could not immediately be learned.

Commenting on his arrival, Guével expressed admiration for Balmain’s “remarkable” growth over the past few years.

“Since the day that he stepped into the role of creative director, Olivier Rousteing has managed to build upon the singular heritage and savoir-faire of the 75-year-old house — while, at the same time, always knowing how to best respond to the needs and desires of the new and diverse generation that he is a part of,” he said in a statement seen by WWD on Thursday. “I’m looking forward to working closely with him and the rest of the Balmain team, as we build upon that unique vision to fully realize Balmain’s outstanding potential for future growth.”

Rousteing has helmed the design studio since 2009, leveraging his vast social media following — and strategic collaborations with the likes of H&M, Puma and Kylie Jenner — to power the Paris-based brand.

Guével joined Zadig as general manager in 2017, charged with speeding up its international expansion, especially in the U.S. and China.

Prior to joining the company, Guével held the role of international director of Céline for eight years. Before that, the executive worked at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s fashion division as well as at brands including S.T. Dupont and Louis Vuitton. He is a graduate of HEC Business School and Sciences Po in Paris.

Zadig & Voltaire has yet to indicate its succession plan. The brand has been expanding in the U.S. with help from an investment in the label six years ago from U.S.-based private equity and buyout firm TA Associates. The firm last year mandated Rothschild & Cie to find an additional investor for further expansion.

Bottega Veneta, Chloé, Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham, Azzedine Alaïa, Gant, Delvaux, Moschino, Aspesi, Tiger of Sweden, Giuseppe Zanotti, Temperley London and Belstaff are among a host of European brands that welcomed new ceo’s this year.

While circumstances varied across those companies, with some ceo’s simply leaving for bigger or greener pastures, observers suggest that leadership changes are speeding up.

“Throughout all industries the tenure of ceo’s is becoming shorter,” said Patrick Egan, group managing director of Endaba, a headhunter and management consultancy. With the fashion houses, in many ways, tradition has been their strength, but in today’s modern, digitally led society, the way people engage with fashion and fashion houses has changed. The ability to adapt to this, at the same time as keeping the essence and tradition of the brand, is proving challenging. From a leadership perspective, fashion houses and retailers have often been drawn to big characters and personalities, which hasn’t always translated into strong cultural foundations and financial rewards.”
Floriane de Saint Pierre, who operates an executive search and consulting firm in Paris, agreed that using an old playbook no longer works in fashion.
But she noted that, by contrast, there are very few top management changes in leading groups like LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Kering, Hermès International and L’Oréal.
“The reason is that nearly all the ceo’s of these groups currently in office come from within,” she explained. “They have been very well-developed, exposed to best practices and to managing transformation before accessing a ceo role.”
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