Francois Kress said to be leaving Carolina Herrera as ceo.


It looks like change has come to the corner office at Carolina Herrera.

Sources said Francois Kress is on the way out as chief executive officer. The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Kress took the job in March 2015, picking up responsibilities that had been handled by Caroline Brown, who moved on to become ceo of Donna Karan International before that company was sold to G-III Apparel Group.

He came to the brand with a long track record in fashion that included stints as global president of Stuart Weitzman, president and chief operating officer at The Row, president and ceo of Prada for North and South America, and more.

As ceo, he played a prominent role in the brief legal battle between Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta, which detailed the employment arrangement of designer Laura Kim.

Herrera, the company, sued Kim and de la Renta just before Christmas seeking to enforce a non-compete agreement that could have kept the young designer on the sidelines for a season.

The suit was settled earlier this month and left Kim free to start working with de la Renta, but not before it opened wide a window into the inner workings of one of fashion’s most prestigious houses.

Giuseppe Celio, Herrera’s chief operating officer, said in an affidavit filed in the case that Kress was looking to elevate Kim to creative director at Herrera.

“I have been informed by Francois Kress, CH’s-president and ceo, that on or about July 15, 2016, he and Jose Manuel Albesa, the chief brand officer of Puig, which owns the Carolina Herrera brand, met with Ms. Kim to present her with a written offer for the position of creative director of Carolina Herrera, signed by Mr. Kress,” Celio said. “This meeting took place in the lobby of the Roxy Hotel. The offer included a salary of $1 million per year, eligibility for an annual bonus of up to $300,000, and a term allowing Ms. Kim to spend one day each week working for her own start-up brand Monse…Financial support to Monse was also discussed at the time and would have been the subject of a separate agreement between the two corporations.”

That would have nudged aside Herrera herself, but an affidavit from Kim indicated that “nobody had informed Ms. Herrera that she was being transitioned out and that Ms. Herrera intended to run CH as if she were the creative director.”

Kim said she tried to “work around the tensions,” but the situation became “untenable” and she resigned.

The suit said Herrera had lost business since Kim left and described her as a “unique employee” who is “very adept at creating designs that are what commercial clients are interested in stocking in their stores.”

The non-compete clause in her contract restricted her, for a time, from working at only one company: de la Renta.

“To the extent designers are personal brands, this is very good to Ms. Kim’s personal brand,” said attorney Douglas Hand who specializes in fashion law at Hand, Baldachin & Amburgey.

 

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