Isabelle Allouch

PARIS — SMCP group, owner of Sandro, Maje and Claudie Pierlot, has named Isabelle Allouch chief executive officer of Sandro, tapping the executive from within the group. Allouch, who has headed Claudie Pierlot for five years, will be replaced by Jean-Baptiste Dacquin, another insider, who has managed the group’s human resources for the past seven years.

“It’s a very deliberate strategy,” said Daniel Lalonde, ceo of SMCP, who spoke to WWD about building and promoting executive expertise within the group. Noting that the company does not exclude recruiting outsiders, however, he cited the example of Isabelle Guichot, a former Balenciaga executive who became ceo of Maje in 2017.

“When I built my management team five years ago, I really wanted to recruit people that are very talented in what they’ve done in the past, that could bring and create value for SMCP, and that one day, when the opportunity is right, to give them another challenge…based on proven success on what they’ve done and both Jean-Baptiste [Dacquin] and Isabelle [Allouch] are perfect examples of that,” he said. “It’s a great message internally.”

Over the past five years, Allouch, a former beauty executive who spent the early part of her career at L’Oréal, oversaw the tripling of Claudie Pierlot’s sales to over 125 million euros through international and online expansion, as well as a focus on accessories. During her tenure, the label doubled the amount of countries it operates in, expanding in Europe and last year to Asia, now covering 20 markets. Among the group’s labels, Claudie Pierlot counts the highest proportion of sales generated online, according to Allouch. While company does not provide a breakdown by brand, the group as a whole brings in nearly 15 percent of sales from online channels.

SMCP, which surpassed the one-billion-euro-annual-sales mark last year, has undergone deep transformation over the past several years, including a change of ownership from private equity firm KKR to Shandong Ruyi Group in 2016, followed by its listing on the Paris stock market a year and a half ago.

Lalonde has been overseeing Sandro since the top position at the group’s biggest brand — accounting for half of the group’s sales — was vacated by Jean-Philippe Hecquet, recruited last year by Fosun Fashion Group to head Lanvin. In catapulting Allouch from the head of the group’s smallest label — Claudie Pierlot generates around 12 percent of SMCP’s sales— to its largest, Lalonde is also betting on continuity.

“She knows our business model, the way we work, which is incredibly useful in keeping the journey going for the three brands,” Lalonde said.

Allouch traces her interest in retail to her time at L’Occitane, where she headed a vast store expansion program by the beauty group in Europe nearly a decade ago.

“For me, the biggest challenge is to manage the storytelling in a way that allows you to overcome the fashion phenomenon so as not to be ‘in’ and then, just three years later, ‘out,’ she said. “The more you draw on the roots of the brand, the more you project it into the future with more content, and the better chance you have of lasting.

“There’s an accelerated pace in fashion, so if you haven’t built a strong and solid foundation that allows you to project yourself into the long term, for me that’s a risk,” added Allouch.

The executive, who has emphasized accessories at Claudie Pierlot, shoes and handbags in particular, said the company has learned the importance of not allowing collections to get too disperse.

“The key to success that we have learned these past few years is that you have to work in terms of lines and avoid getting dispersed with 35 different lines — at Claudie Pierlot we have two lines that we work in a very regular manner, with extensions. We revisit products, we modernize them, we change the material, the added value, the color scheme — in keeping with the trends. We have built two lines of iconic handbags, the Anouk and Angela lines,” she said.

While there is not a lot of overlap in terms of clientele between the brands — only around 15 percent, according to group estimates — a common strategy is prime real estate for its store network, she said.

“Whether it’s New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai or Paris, having the brands of the group in the best location on the street or in a department store serves to gives us real visibility and develop our notoriety,” said Allouch, noting directly operated stores and concessions are equally important as formats.

Stores continue to play a crucial role in a digital era, she added.

“You have to know how to take the turn into the digital realm, and know what the role of your physical stores will become in this context,” she said. “People need to have physical contact with a brand in order to understand its culture, its stylistic expression and feel — the client also wants to be pampered, to have access to services, and at the same time be close, with guidance that you can’t necessarily have digitally…On the one hand, we have to push deeper into the digital sphere and we have to push the experience of brick-and-mortar stores even further.”

Analysts expect the accessible luxury market to continue to grow; Berenberg estimates the sector is worth around 106 billion euros with annual growth likely around 6 percent through next year. Berenberg analysts earlier this year said they expect SMCP to maintain a dominant position in the business, thanks to a combination of flexible fast-fashion-like operations and a “luxury-like front office.”

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