One of the last independent French heritage houses, Leonard Paris has been acquired by Japanese wholesale and distribution company Sankyo Seiko. The deal had been in the works for months, with an agreement reached July 19. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Current creative director Georg Lux will stay on, while president Nathalie Tribouillard Chassaing and managing director Virginie Tribouillard Bienvenu are in negotiations to remain at the helm through the transition. That agreement is expected to be finalized later this week.
“That was part of the deal, everybody is still on board. Nothing is going to change, at least not now,” Tribouillard Chassaing told WWD.
Lux will design the upcoming spring 2023 collection to be presented during Paris Fashion Week in September, in order to cement the brand’s slot on the calendar with the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, as well as its position in luxury association Comité Colbert and the label Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant, which was key to the deal, she said.
“It’s important for them to keep the savoir-faire and the atelier in Paris, because Asia is very fond of that history. So they bought the style, the history and the French savoir-faire,” she said. The archive, with up to 10,000 prints, was also a key factor.
Being one of the last indie labels was increasingly challenging in light of current market conditions, Chassaing said. “It’s difficult for us but competition for our brand was getting very tough for a small family business between all the enormous groups with enormous budgets,” she said. “From communication, distribution, hiring people, it was getting very difficult and this was our way to find a solution [that will allow us] to keep the patrimony, design, archive and staff.”
The lower-priced diffusion line Leonard Fuchsia, launched in 2008 as a capsule and expanded in to a full line in 2016, will not continue.
The brand was founded in 1958 by Daniel Tribouillard and had remained within the family for decades. He handed over the day-to-day to daughters Chassaing and Bienvenu in 2017.
Passing the torch to the Osaka-based Sankyo Seiko will focus activities in Asia, which accounts for 80 percent of Leonard’s sales. Sankyo Seiko represents the brand in more than 50 boutiques in Japan, six in Taiwan and runs their own Leonard Sport line there.
“Their wish is to develop business in China and [South] Korea, and I’m sure they will be able to do that with their know how,” she added.
Sankyo Seiko will aim to grow the brand in those countries through its network of established distribution partners for its Daks Simpson brand, chief executive officer Akira Inoue told WWD.
“We will mostly focus in Asian markets, as we are a Japanese company and also we have a very strong network of the Daks brand in Asia — [South] Korea, Hong Kong and also Thailand. We have good partnerships,” he said. “There are a lot of possibilities.”
They will look at additional licensing deals based on the archive prints, which have wide appeal in Asia, he added. Inoue said the archive and historical heritage was a big factor, which merges well with traditional Japanese kimono methods of production to create new products.
“This historical heritage is really the treasure for us,” Inoue said.
Lux has been serving as creative director of the house since January 2021, following Christine Phung. The brand, known for its colorful floral prints, has said its focus in recent years is to bring on a younger clientele.
Sankyo Seiko has holdings in fashion manufacturing and importing as well as real estate and interior design. The company acquired British house Daks Simpson in 1991 in a deal valued at 150 million pounds, or $300 million in current dollars.