VUITTON SHIFTS EXECS FOR U.S. PUSH, WILL HIGHLIGHT LOEWE IN LAUNCHES
Byline: Sharon Edelson
NEW YORK — Louis Vuitton said Tuesday it has put in place a new management structure to facilitate the growth of three key brands it plans to introduce in the U.S., with particular emphasis on Loewe, a label that has not been available here for three years.
“Louis Vuitton is very serious about doing business in North America,” said Thomas J. O’Neill, president and chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton North America. “We are not only serious about our core business, Louis Vuitton; we also want to bring the other brands to market.”
In addition to Loewe, the Spanish leather house, those brands are Berluti, an upscale manufacturer and retailer of men’s and women’s shoes, and Stefanobi, another shoe manufacturer whose products are available in the U.S. in limited distribution.
The management realignment has John Slavinsky, vice president of stores for the West, being named senior vice president of stores, a new position. Four regional managers will report to Slavinsky, freeing Michael Hoffman, vice president of stores for the East, to develop the Loewe, Berluti and Stefanobi brands. Hoffman’s new title is senior vice president of business development.
“Michael will work with me in developing the other brands in the Louis Vuitton group, with Loewe being the key brand we introduce into the U.S.,” O’Neill said. “With the revitalization of Loewe, which has a new president, Ridgely Cinquegrana, and Narciso Rodriguez as creative director, there is an immense and intense interest in Loewe. We want to do it right and put the right professionals in place.”
Vuitton acquired Loewe in 1996. It did $200 million in worldwide sales last year.
The push for Loewe, Berluti and Stefanobi comes at a time when Louis Vuitton itself is expanding, spurred by the interest generated when Marc Jacobs was hired last year as the house’s creative director.
Louis Vuitton will open a new store in SoHo and plans to open a flagship on East 57th Street that will be part of the LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton corporate tower now under construction. (See related story, page 10.)
“Michael will also look at developing Berluti and Stefanobi,” O’Neill said. Berluti operates a store in Paris and recently opened a flagship in London.
“We will look, over the long term, for opportunities for Berluti in the U.S.,” O’Neill said.
Louis Vuitton envisions a network of freestanding stores and leased shops-in-shops in department and specialty stores, O’Neill said.
The firm will initially open perhaps two Loewe stores per year “and more as the opportunities come up,” said O’Neill. “We’re ready and put together a terrific marketing and merchandising group in Madrid.”
Louis Vuitton will step up advertising for Loewe. “You’ll see it in a much more important way in the next few years,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill said the firm is still looking at real estate. Although he declined to discuss specific sites, he said it has targeted such cities as New York, Palm Beach, Bal Harbour, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.