Daphné Cousineau

PARIS — Icicle Group has named Daphné Cousineau general manager of Carven, recruiting an executive from the high-end French fashion world to spearhead the relaunch of the historic fashion house, WWD has learned.

It is the first major move since the Chinese group scooped up the struggling label last year, several months after it had filed for bankruptcy.

“I am delighted to join Carven, this wonderful heritage fashion brand, and to lead its relaunch project,” said Cousineau in a statement.

Noting the brand’s “strong development potential,” the executive predicted it would no doubt attract the “creative talent needed for its revival.”

Cousineau joins from Kering-owned Balenciaga, where she was an executive committee member and president, Europe, charged with overseeing the brand’s performance in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region for retail, wholesale and franchise operations, since April 2017.

The Canadian-French national, who has held key international sales roles at Celine, Valentino and Lanvin, began her career at McKinsey & Co., working in various consultant roles in London, Paris and Montreal.

Shanghai-based Icicle, which plans to draw on Carven’s couture heritage to expand its presence abroad with an accessible luxury positioning, said the appointment is a first step to providing Carven with “the leadership it deserves to ensure its development in addition to the strength and synergies the Icicle Group will provide.”

Icicle sells contemporary men’s and women’s wear with an emphasis on high-quality fabrics and an ecological bent, mainly in China. Relatively unknown outside of its home market, the clothing company was launched in 1997 by Ye Shouzeng, an alum and former professor of Donghua University, one of China’s best-regarded fashion design schools, and Shawna Tao. The label operates more than 250 stores in China, including franchises, with prices reaching up to around $1,500 or more for larger pieces like outerwear.

Cousineau will report to Shawna Tao, who is Carven’s chief executive officer.

The Chinese label chose Paris to gain a foothold in Europe in 2013, recruiting a former Fauchon executive, Isabelle Capron, to head its fashion group and building design studios in the tony 16th arrondissement, and assembling a team of around 30 employees before it purchased Carven.

The historic fashion house was founded in 1945 by Madame Carven, born Marie-Louise Carmen de Tommaso, a peer of Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain. The famously petite couturier was known for traveling the world with her collections and returning to the French capital with a trove of exotic influences.

The label underwent a renaissance after being purchased in 2008 by Henri Sebaoun, who linked with artistic director Guillaume Henry to position it as a contemporary brand. After Henry left for Nina Ricci, the brand named Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud to replace him. Their tenure was short-lived, however, and Serge Ruffieux took the creative helm the following year.

Drawing on the 250-piece-strong archive owned by Paris’ Galliera fashion museum for inspiration, Ruffieux offered fresh cuts with a mix of bohemian and bourgeois references in his first collections for the house.

But the revival was cut short when Carven and its parent company, Société Béranger, filed for bankruptcy last spring. The house, which had already been struggling financially, was hit with production delays and had to cancel orders, adding to its financial troubles.

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