PARIS — Olivier Lapidus, a designer not well-known beyond certain Paris fashion circles, is being thrust into the international spotlight as the new artistic director of Lanvin.
His hire was effective Monday and he is expected to show his first Lanvin collection in September for the spring 2018 women’s ready-to-wear season, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
Lapidus takes over from Bouchra Jarrar, who left Lanvin after only 16 months, as reported on July 7. WWD had already identified Lapidus as a possible successor.
He arrives at the French house as it manages challenging times for wholesale-driven businesses, and multiple internal woes. The company, founded by Jeanne Lanvin in 1889, has been majority owned since 2001 by Taiwan-based media magnate Shaw-Lan Wang. It has seen sales erode for several years after peaking at less than 250 million euros in 2012, according to sources. Last year, the house posted its first loss in more than a decade.
According to sources, orders for women’s collections have been falling at a steep double-digit rate. The brand has also struggled to build a handbag business, a chief pillar for most European fashion firms.
It is understood that the choice of Lapidus is being met with surprise from members of the board.
According to a Paris source, minority shareholder Ralph Bartel and investment banker Pierre Mallevays of Savigny Partners, both board members, have submitted letters of resignation to disassociate themselves from Wang’s decisions and governance.
It is understood Bartel and Mallevays had urged Wang to go through a proper process using professional advice from a talent search firm.
The source said Wang also did not consult the board when she appointed Jarrar and chief executive officer Michele Huiban.
The former head of the Ted Lapidus label, founded by his father, Lapidus recently launched what he is billing as the world’s first web-based couture house. Customers can watch a runway show online featuring a see-now-buy-now option for each piece. Through a hotline available in 11 languages, they can book an appointment to be measured by a local team of seamstresses and then follow, via web clips, the entire creation process of each piece.
“If fashion is theater, in particular couture, then Internet is cinema,” Lapidus told WWD recently. He holds more than 11 patents for innovations including fabric made with fiber optics.
“I want to show how métiers d’art can be a part of innovation,” he said. “We’ll be sending out one-minute digests, because beyond that you lose attention. You have to create an emotion so that the new customer can absorb the information at today’s pace.”
In 2013, Lapidus designed the Félicien hotel in Paris. According to its web site, he was artistic director of Balmain Homme in 1985 and 1986. Between stints in Japan and Beijing, he helmed the Maison Lapidus.
Jarrar is said to have been frustrated by the absence of a clearly articulated strategy for the house and a corresponding lack of investment in it — concerns similar to those of her predecessor Alber Elbaz toward the end of his 14-year tenure, which catapulted the brand’s notoriety.