By Joelle Diderich
with contributions from Katya Foreman
 on March 23, 2018
Backstage at Lanvin RTW Fall 2018

PARIS — Fosun International has decided to kick off a new era at Lanvin with a clean slate.

In its first big moves since buying the French luxury brand last month, the Chinese conglomerate has ousted creative director Olivier Lapidus and general manager Nicolas Druz, sparking speculation about who might take on the daunting task of redressing the cash-strapped label.

In the interim, Joann Cheng, president of Fosun Fashion Group and chairman of the board of directors of Lanvin, has been appointed chief executive officer of the house on a temporary basis, Lanvin said in a statement on Thursday.

Druz, a close associate of former majority shareholder Shaw-Lan Wang, had led the brand since last summer following a management reshuffle. He will take up the new position of managing director of Fosun Fashion Group, where he will support the group’s business expansion in Europe, Lanvin said.

Lapidus, who showed his sophomore collection for the house during Paris Fashion Week last month, is exiting his role as artistic director with immediate effect. The women’s collections will be designed by an in-house team until his replacement is announced, and Lapidus will return to his own label.

“Olivier steered the maison through a transitional period between ownerships,” Cheng said. “We thank him for that, and wish him every success for his own brand and future endeavors.”

When the takeover was revealed, the house initially said Fosun planned to work with its existing teams. Its statement on Thursday made no mention of Lucas Ossendrijver, creative director of men’s wear, who has been touted as a potential candidate to succeed Kim Jones as head of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton.

Cheng has more than 20 years’ experience in senior management, having served as the chief financial officer of Chinese technology firm DJI Innovations, finance director of private equity firm TPG and Greater China controller at GE Capital, the financial services unit of General Electric.

She will act as ceo during a transition period, after which a new permanent ceo will be appointed.

“Lanvin is a truly iconic and storied brand with immense potential,” Cheng said. “By being a part of the Fosun Fashion Group, Lanvin’s future growth can leverage resources from the expansive global platform of Fosun’s established companies and experts.”

The oldest French fashion house still operating has seen sales erode since a peak of 235 million euros in 2012. Revenues totaled 110 million euros in 2017, with a net loss of 52 million euros, and are projected to shrink to 85 million euros this year, with losses seen at 40 million euros, according to a source with knowledge of the label’s finances.

“The relaunch of Lanvin with fresh talents, while adhering to the values that the brand has maintained since 1889, is fundamental to returning the maison to its rightful position at the top table of the world’s most lauded and innovative fashion houses,” Cheng said.

Lanvin has struggled to find its footing since dismissing creative director Alber Elbaz in October 2015, following disagreements between the designer and Wang over the company’s direction. Elbaz catapulted the brand’s notoriety during his 14-year tenure.

Like his predecessor Bouchra Jarrar, Lapidus leaves Lanvin after a run of only two seasons, during which his collections received mixed reviews, though he appeared to have found more solid footing with his last collection.

Shortly before joining Lanvin, Lapidus — who has more than 11 patents for innovations including fabric made with fiber optics — had launched what he billed as the world’s first web-based couture house, which allowed customers to watch a runway show online featuring a see-now-buy-now option for each piece.

It could not be learned if Lanvin has already launched a search for a new designer and ceo.

Design talents on the market include Peter Copping; Guillaume Henry, who recently parted ways with Nina Ricci, and Simon Porte Jacquemus, who when reached said he was not aware of Lapidus leaving and that he had not been contacted by the house.

Extending the responsibilities of Ossendrijver, who has proven a rock throughout the turbulence, could also be a possibility. Elbaz has not been approached, according to a source.

The new management team has been busy meeting with various members of the house’s team to get a clear picture of the situation, and asking lots of questions, another source said. The main challenge for the group in looking to attract talent is that, in a short space of time, the brand and its legacy have been damaged.

“People have to understand there’s a cleansing process that has to go on before anyone would consider it,” said a Paris-based headhunter, who asked to remain anonymous.

On the upside, anyone going in would be starting with a clean slate, under a new owner and new ceo, although the company’s strategy in terms of how it wants to position the historic house for its new chapter has yet to be communicated, the headhunter said.

Fosun beat Qatari rival Mayhoola Group to win control of Lanvin, which was facing a liquidity crisis. The acquisition adds a luxury asset to Fosun Fashion Group, which has been given a mandate to invest globally in the fashion and retail industry to leverage the momentum in Chinese consumer spending.

The division aims to create long-term value through a variety of strategic initiatives, including brand building, new product development, strategic alliances, entry into new channels and marketing.

Fosun, which is active in the health, property and mining sectors, made its first move into fashion in 2011 with the acquisition of a minority stake in Greek jewelry brand Folli Follie.

In 2013, it invested in the Italian tailor Caruso, assuming control of the company last year, and in 2014 it entered the capital of German fashion brand Tom Tailor Holding AG. Fosun also holds a stake in St. John Knits Inc., the American heritage knitwear brand.

Lanvin was under pressure to find an investor, as it was fast running out of funds. After an auditor last year issued a warning over the label’s financial situation, Wang promised to inject cash into the struggling business, but the investment never materialized.

The sale agreement deal left Wang and her business partner, Swiss businessman Ralph Bartel, on board with minority stakes in Lanvin.

Fosun has committed to invest up to 120 million euros in the struggling house, according to a second source. Wang and Bartel have been offered the opportunity to provide a portion of the total investment, a decision they will have to make by early April, the source added.

If she does not reinvest in the brand, Wang’s share will decline to around 20 percent from 75 percent previously. Bartel’s share has been diluted from the 25 percent he owned previously. If he decides to reinvest, he would be left with a stake of between 20 and 25 percent, the source added.


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