PARIS — Historic Belgian handbag maker Delvaux has reinstalled Marco Probst as chief executive officer, bringing the executive back after a year and a half to fill the role that had been held by Jean-Marc Loubier, WWD has learned.
The move marks the latest change at a tumultuous time for parent company First Heritage Brands, which is backed by Hong Kong billionaires Victor and William Fung. The group also owned Sonia Rykiel, which was liquidated by a Paris court in July.
Loubier told WWD he continues to act as president of the group and is also a minority investor.
Loubier, an industry veteran who previously worked at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and has been ceo of fashion houses Escada and Celine, said in a note distributed to employees last week that he was resigning from his duties at the high-end leather goods label. In his message, the executive noted Delvaux was in “serious difficulties” when he suggested First Heritage Brands take control of the label in 2011.
The group sought to boost the international profile of the prestigious Belgian label, known for a long-standing relation with the Belgian royal court as an official supplier since 1883, by building a store network abroad and investing in workshops in France and Belgium. Loubier noted in his message to employees that the brand’s sales had increased tenfold and it is profitable, and that the midsize label had expanded “without the support of big groups.”
The brand has pushed into Asian markets, in China, South Korea and Japan, and opened flagships on New York’s Fifth Avenue, Bond Street in London and in the Palazzo Reina in Milan, as well as a popup on the Rue Saint Honoré in Paris, with plans for a permanent store there. The proportion of sales generated outside of Belgium has increased from 3 to 85 percent, while the store network has increased from 10 to 45 under ownership of First Heritage Brands.
The group had set out to build a luxury empire, buying Delvaux and shoemaker Robert Clergerie in 2011, followed by Sonia Rykiel in 2012. Earlier this year, however, it mandated investment bank Rothschild & Co. to find an investor or outright buyer for Sonia Rykiel, but the famed French striped knitwear label was eventually liquidated by a Paris court in July.
It has become increasingly challenging for smaller labels in the luxury sphere to compete with the mega brands operated by larger luxury conglomerates that have the financial firepower to dominate the digital landscape and stronger negotiating positions for landing prime real estate.