Valérie Hermann is to apply her merchandising, operations and marketing prowess to French heritage brands Bonpoint and J.M. Weston, WWD has learned.
The high-profile fashion executive, who was most recently president of global brands at Ralph Lauren Corp., has been tapped by private investment firm EPI to be managing director of its fashion and luxury division, which includes Bonpoint and J.M. Weston. She starts Jan. 8 and also will become a member of EPI’s executive committee.
Hermann is to lead the strategy of the division, in collaboration with Christopher Descours, president of the Paris-based family holding, which also has investment and real estate arms.
“She will also ensure the operational monitoring of the houses, in conjunction with their presidents, in order to accelerate their international development while preserving their identity, enhancing their know-how and ‘art de vivre’ spirit throughout the world,” EPI enumerated in a statement, which it shared exclusively with WWD on Monday.
Descours said Hermann’s “expertise in the luxury and fashion sector, her managerial experience and her knowledge of international markets are valuable assets in meeting our growth ambitions.”
Acquired by EPI in 2007, Bonpoint has since more than tripled its store count to about 120 locations as it ramped up its presence in Asia and Europe. Roughly 75 percent of revenues are now generated outside of France, versus about 15 percent 12 years ago, and half of its clientele today is Asian.
Touted as the only French couture house dedicated to children’s wear, Bonpoint recently welcomed Anne Valérie Hash as artistic director, and named Christian Piat, head of EPI in Asia, Bonpoint’s interim chief executive officer.
Luxury shoemaker J.M. Weston, which counts 45 boutiques in the world, mainly in Europe and Japan, spies expansion potential in the United States and Asia, and an opportunity to grow its women’s category, which currently accounts for only about 7 percent of revenues. The brand is slated to introduce a new project around refurbished vintage with a performance in Paris on Jan. 14. Its president is Thierry Oriez.
EPI’s other properties include French bootmaker F. Pinet, the Champagne houses Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck, and the wine makers Biondi-Santi, Château La Verrerie and Tardieu-Laurent.
Its investment division recently took a 20 percent stake in Biologique Recherche, the cult French skin-care brand with an institute on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It also holds 30 percent of French shirtmaker Figaret.
It is understood EPI is open to expanding its fashion and luxury holdings should the right investment opportunities arise.
For her part, Hermann said she is “happy to be returning to France and to be taking up this new professional challenge by joining a family-driven company and talented teams dedicated to an ambitious business project.”
She exited her position at Ralph Lauren on Sept. 30 after almost three years in the role. Hermann initially joined Ralph Lauren in 2014 as president of Ralph Lauren Luxury Collections, overseeing Black Label, Purple Label, fine jewelry, eyewear, timepieces, handbags, RRL and fragrance. In her most recent role, Hermann had responsibility for all of Lauren’s global brands, overseeing Ralph Lauren, Polo Ralph Lauren, Lauren, Chaps and Home.
Prior to that, Hermann was president and ceo of Reed Krakoff, having helped establish that business as a division of Coach Inc.
Earlier, she was ceo of Yves Saint Laurent in Paris and before that was with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, where she was president of John Galliano and director of women’s ready-to-wear at Dior. She had also been president and ceo of Jacques Fath. Hermann started her career at the Comité Colbert, the Paris-based luxury goods trade association. A French national, she is a graduate of elite business school HEC Paris.
EPI’s wines and Champagne division is led by Damien Lafaurie; while financial investments, including real estate, is led by Evrard de Montgolfier.
EPI’s roots are in retail and real estate. Descours’ grandfather led Group André, later known as Vivarte, from 1960 to 1996 and the family sold its shares in those French shoe and fashion chains in 2003 and 2007, shifting its focus to more high-end brands.