PARIS — Tensions between staff and management at Lanvin have reached a new high following the surprise departure last week of creative director Alber Elbaz.
Charles Henry Paradis, a member of the works council who represents employees on the company board, said staff representatives met with a labor inspector on Tuesday after the head of Lanvin’s human resources department declined to hold a meeting to discuss a list of questions put forward by employees.
Paradis accused management of trying to stall the official procedure launched by the works council last week demanding that majority owner Shaw-Lan Wang, who pushed out the star designer, return to Paris from Taiwan, where she is based, to listen to their concerns, answer questions and reassure employees.
“We have reached a point of no return in terms of labor relations,” Paradis told WWD on Wednesday. “General management is trying to play for time by using delaying tactics to try to choke us financially. There is a breakdown in relations between staff representatives and management that is unheard of.”
Paradis said among the issues staff would like to address are forecasts that Lanvin will post a loss this year for the first time since 2007, and the high level of employee turnover at the firm. He said the labor inspector would write to Lanvin officials to remind them of their obligations under French law.
“It’s much ado about nothing,” countered a spokeswoman for Lanvin, describing the delay in the timing of the meeting as a technicality. “The situation as it appears to be described by one person does not correspond with reality,” she added, saying that Paradis – though elected to the works council – did not speak on behalf of the company’s 330 members of staff.
“Lanvin has been in existence for 125 years. It must go on. We are not going to close the house because our creative director is gone,” the spokeswoman added. “The teams are hard at work. They continue to work, even if it is an emotional time.”
Lanvin employees were told of Elbaz’s dismissal a week ago — news met with shock, tears and chants of “Alber, Alber, Alber.”
News of Elbaz’s ouster after an eventful 14-year tenure was first reported on WWD.com, with the designer holding out hope that the company “finds the business vision it needs to engage in the right way forward.”
Sources said the rupture came following disagreements between Elbaz, Wang and chief executive officer Michèle Huiban.
Elbaz has yet to indicate his future intentions, and his successor at Lanvin has yet to be named. As reported, names on its short list could include Olivier Rousteing, Simone Rocha, Huishan Zhang and Joseph Altuzarra, as well as Lucas Ossendrijver, tapped by Elbaz in 2005 to rejuvenate Lanvin Homme.