PARIS — LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton is applying its formidable finances and management might to revive the dormant Jean Patou fashion house, WWD has learned.
Sidney Toledano, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Fashion Group, is spearheading the project and has already selected and signed on a designer to lead it: Guillaume Henry.
Last March, Henry exited Nina Ricci and he is said to be passionate about the legacy of Patou, a French designer who brought modernity and buzz to fashion in the Twenties — and innovated in business with fragrances, logos and sport clothes.
LVMH is now in the throes of building teams around Henry with a view to launching the first collection of ready-to-wear and accessories in the second half of 2019.
It is understood the group views Patou as something of a niche, rarified name — and not its next megabrand. Consequently, LVMH will likely start with a single boutique, most likely in Paris, along with e-commerce and select wholesale partners.
The relaunch suggests the world’s largest luxury group is anticipating an easing of the streetwear craze, and a swing of the fashion pendulum back to sophisticated chic.
Toledano confirmed hiring Henry exclusively to WWD, but said it’s too soon to detail more of the strategy.
He is said to be zeroing in on an executive to lead the Patou house from within LVMH’s ranks.
The group quietly acquired majority control of Patou this year, though its first volley was hard to miss: Taking the name of the fashion house’s most famous fragrance, Joy, and stamping it on a new Dior scent fronted by “Hunger Games” and “Silver Linings Playbook” actress Jennifer Lawrence. (She also starred in the 2015 drama “Joy.”)
While Dior Parfums never explained how it wrangled the name in its press packet about the new scent, fragrance aficionados know Joy is a marvel. Created for Patou in 1929 as a reaction to the stock market crash that year, Joy was voted Scent of the Century by the public at the Fragrance Foundation FIFI Awards in 2000, edging out Chanel No. 5. Joy was often touted as one of the costliest perfumes in the world to produce, owing to its high concentration of natural flower essences. (One perfume bottle contained the essence of as many as 336 roses and 10,600 jasmine flowers, according to one report.)
LVMH acquired the Patou brand from London-based Designer Parfums, whose founder and ceo Dilesh Mehta was looking for a partner to revive the fashion house and approached LVMH. It is understood Mehta and LVMH forged a deal allowing LVMH to use the Joy name for Dior, while waking up another of fashion’s sleeping beauties.
Born in 1887, Patou is considered one of the great names of couture of the Twenties and Thirties, prized for the glamor and showmanship he brought to high fashion. He opened his house in 1914, served in the First World War, and resumed business in 1919 with a Paris shop called Parry.
More than a designer, Patou was a fashion trailblazer, one of the first to launch a diffusion line, promote sportswear and push accessories. He even installed a bar in his salon to serve alcohol to customers during fittings.
His fashions often made waves, as in 1929 when he proposed ankle-length skirts and natural waistlines. Patou is credited with pioneering the tennis skirt, knitted swimwear, men’s designer neckties and sunscreen.
He famously dressed Barbara Hutton for her 1933 wedding to Prince Alexis Mdivani, and in 1925 designed a dark daytime dress with an embroidered Eiffel Tower that was a precursor to today’s high-tech clothing: The landmark was topped by a tiny electric bulb operated by the wearer.
After Patou’s death in 1936, the house continued under his brother-in-law Raymond Barbas, who conscripted a series of resident designers, including Marc Bohan (who later took up the mantle at Christian Dior), Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier, Angelo Tarlazzi and Christian Lacroix, whose stint from 1982 to 1986 attracted the attention of LVMH kingpin Bernard Arnault, who poached Lacroix and built a couture house in his name.
Patou has also passed through several owners. Procter & Gamble Co. purchased the brand from Jean Patou SA in 2001, flipping it to Designer Parfums in 2011.
To be sure, LVMH has deep experience cultivating and animating heritage fashion brands as diverse as Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Loewe and Celine, the latter now under the stewardship of Hedi Slimane.
In Henry, Toledano found a young designer who breathes Parisian chic, and boasts experience at a number of fashion houses.
After graduating from the École Supérieure des Arts Appliqués Duperré, Henry completed a postgraduate program in design at the Institut Français de la Mode. He worked in the studios of Givenchy and Paule Ka before taking the creative helm of Carven in 2009.
Henry forged his reputation there by revving up Carven as a contemporary label with a bold, young — and accessible — approach to Parisian chic.
After an acclaimed five-year run at Carven, Henry left for Nina Ricci in 2015, exiting that brand in March after completing his initial three-year contract. His designs for Ricci proved popular with celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Rihanna and Queen Letizia of Spain.