PARIS — Catherine Vautrin has ditched men’s suits for a little black dress.
Paule Ka has appointed the former Cerruti boss as its chairman and chief executive officer, effective in early February. She will replace Antoine Bing, the company’s chief executive director since 2002, who had served as interim chairman.
“It’s true that it’s a bit of a change. You could say that I’m returning to my first love, which is women’s fashion,” Vautrin, who previously worked at Emilio Pucci, told WWD in an interview.
Paule Ka is undergoing a shake-up following the departure of its founder Serge Cajfinger. The French fashion brand, owned by Change Capital Partners, is also looking for a new creative director, with an announcement expected in the next few months.
Vautrin said she had long been a personal fan of the brand, which is popular with celebrities including Meryl Streep, Lea Michele and Anne Hathaway.
“I find its positioning very interesting. It’s chic, urban, easy sophistication. The products are accessible and very well made, what I would call accessible luxury. I also liked the fact that it’s dressy but not overdressed,” she explained. “I find it very right for today.”
Vautrin had been chairman and ceo of Cerruti until last month, working with its owner, Chinese men’s wear giant Trinity Ltd., to reposition the brand as a purveyor exclusively of men’s wear. Previously, she had her own consulting practice in Italy, in addition to sitting on the board of e-tailer Yoox.
Vautrin spent a large portion of her career at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton — first at Louis Vuitton’s stores network and then as director of the men’s and women’s ready-to-wear division. She was president and ceo of LVMH-owned Emilio Pucci from 2000 to 2007.
Cajfinger, who had served as creative director and chairman of Paule Ka since 1987, left the company in July of last year, as reported.
Vautrin said Change Capital Partners has asked her to “capitalize on this very specific identity the founder built year after year, give it a contemporary interpretation and boost international development.” She said expansion will focus on the United States, Middle East and Asia.
Paule Ka is present in 56 countries via 475 points of sale, including 60 monobrand doors. In 2013, the brand reported sales of 50 million euros, or $66.4 million at average exchange.