IN FOCUS: CELINE

Rumors are still flying about who will take over the design reins at Celine, with the names of Michael Kors and Antonio Berardi being bandied about. But Celine president Nan Legeai says she’s not going to rush that decision. “We have a huge ready-to-wear business already,” Legeai explained. “It’s not a question of what season the designer will start. What’s more important is that we want someone who corresponds to what Celine is today and can take it further.”
Legeai realizes that the right designer can generate a lot of hype and media attention, as other companies in the LVMH group have proved — and she wants to cash in on that. “We need to beef up the runway show and inject some new ideas into the line,” Legeai said a few days before Celine’s spring show.
But those new ideas will have to wait at least until next season. Celine has built its ready-to-wear business on quality classics, and that’s exactly what the company delivered in its weekend show. What looked best were mini dresses and spare suits in white leather, lightweight tweed pantsuits, and sleek tunics over pants. But will the Celine customer go for those graphic patterned knits and suede dresses with tricky cutouts?
Perhaps. The Celine design team seems to have come up with the right look so far. While Legeai doesn’t break out sales for apparel versus accessories, she does say that, in 80 percent of Celine’s stores worldwide, ready-to-wear sales outpace those of leather goods.
The company was folded into LVMH last year and at the time, chairman Bernard Arnault valued Celine at about $535 million. In 1995, the last year in which figures were disclosed, Celine earned $26.6 million at current exchange rates on sales of $331.7 million.
On the retail front, Celine is very pleased with sales from leased departments in Saks Fifth Avenue’s branches in Tysons Corner and Dallas. And Legeai is in discussions with Saks to explore other locations, including Beverly Hills.
“For me, leased departments is a healthier way to run the business,” Legeai said. “This system really gives us the best of both worlds. It’s like our own store — we buy and sell the clothes, but we benefit from the store’s overall traffic.”

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