PARIS — Chinese label Icicle’s acquisition of French fashion house Carven leaves out one key employee of the house: creative director Serge Ruffieux.
The 4.2-million-euro deal, approved by a Paris commercial court decision on Friday, covers job contracts for 72 out of 73 employees — all but Ruffieux, according to a court document obtained by WWD.
“We recognize Serge Ruffieux’s great talent but we need time to evaluate the situation and make decisions that are the most appropriate to accompany the relaunching of Carven notably for what concerns creative direction and style,” Icicle said in a statement on Monday.
Ruffieux was not immediately available for comment.
Isabelle Capron, general manager of the company’s French subsidiary Icicle Paris Mode, had previously told WWD that it was too early to talk about the future of design teams at the house.
In its decision, the court noted that the deal includes the label’s wholesale business — which accounts for 80 percent of sales — along with its four stores in France and one in London, and the e-commerce business, which represents only 3 percent of sales.
Employee numbers had been whittled down from 103 in the spring when bankruptcy proceedings were triggered.
The works council said it was opposed to the deal, criticizing it as not well developed and lacking explanation about Carven’s future development. Out of 52 employees that the council presented the project to, 40 were opposed to the deal.
Icicle plans to expand the French label in China and open 33 stores in the country over the next three years, and inject around 8 million euros of investment into the house.
Friday’s court decision closed a tumultuous bankruptcy chapter for the historic French house and thrust the expanding Chinese label into the international spotlight. Other bidders in the running were Axara, Lee Cooper, Cashtex, Philippe Métivier, Market Maker and Red Luxury.
Carven 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 bringing back a trove of exotic influences.
The house had undergone a renaissance in 2008 under the direction of its new owner Henri Sebaoun and former artistic director Guillaume Henry, who positioned it as a contemporary brand.
After Henry moved to Nina Ricci, the brand initially named Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud as artistic directors for the women’s collections, and Barnabé Hardy for men’s. Carven sold a majority stake to Hong Kong-based Bluebell Group in 2016 and suspended the men’s line that year.
Serge Ruffieux took the creative helm the following year. The designer hailed from Sonia Rykiel and Christian Dior, where he briefly served as co-artistic director with Lucie Meier. 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 planned revival was cut short as Carven and its parent company, Société Béranger, filed for bankruptcy this spring. The house, which had already been struggling financially, was hit with production delays and had to cancel orders, costing it several million euros. The company counted eight shareholders including Bluebell, Turenne Capital and Sebaoun.