TOLEDANO OUT, VINCENT IN AT KARL LAGERFELD COMPANY
Byline: Godfrey Deeny
PARIS — After 10 years at the business helm of Karl Lagerfeld SA, Ralph Toledano has been replaced.
The new managing director is Marc Vincent, who spent seven years with the house of Valentino.
In a terse statement Tuesday, Lagerfeld president Mounir Moufarrige said: “Mr. Ralph Toledano…is leaving the company. I personally wish to express my thanks to Ralph for his support during the past two years and the contributions he made to the development of the business.”
Reached in the south of France, where he is shooting the house’s catalog, Karl Lagerfeld said, “This was a group decision, and had nothing to do with me. I’m sad for him because for many years he was OK. But recently we have had some delivery and production problems.”
In recent years, the Lagerfeld ready-to-wear line has reportedly suffered from poor sell-through, especially in the U.S.
Toledano, 43, had been with Lagerfeld since 1985.
“I’ve spent 10 wonderful years in the house. And I’m proud to say that our team, allied to the brilliance of Karl Lagerfeld, had a great success; because it was a success story,” said Toledano from his home Tuesday. “It has been great working with a talent like Monsieur Lagerfeld. He’s not only a genius, but a man of great culture and intelligence. And the partners we worked with in the U.S. have shown that they are real friends,” he added.
Toledano took over the reins when the house was suffering major losses and turned it into a profitable label.
In June 1992, the Lagerfeld fashion business was acquired by Dunhill PLC for around $23.55 million in a deal that reunited Lagerfeld with Chloé. Dunhill subsequently became part of Vendome PLC, a London-based holding company controlled indirectly by the Rupert family of South Africa, which also owns Cartier, Piaget, Baume & Mercier, Alfred Dunhill, Montblanc, Hackett and Chloé.
The house’s bottom line has always been hurt by the fact that none of the royalties from Lagerfeld’s own scents go into the company’s accounts.
Elizabeth Arden, which licenses the Lagerfeld scents, divides the perfume royalties, traditionally a key component in any fashion house’s revenues, between the designer himself and Chloé.
Nevertheless, the house reportedly posted a small profit in 1993 on sales of around $24.5 million (130 million francs). Wholesale volume internationally, including accessories and
fashion, reached $100 million in 1993.
Toledano, who did stints at Yves Saint Laurent, Lanvin and Boussac Saint Freres before joining Lagerfeld, declined to discuss any job offers, though he did say he was prepared to look outside the fashion business. However, there have been rumors recently linking Toledano’s name with Hervé Leger and Givenchy.
Prior to his time at Valentino, Vincent — who did not return calls Tuesday — spent 10 years at Yves Saint Laurent.
Asked about Vincent, Lagerfeld responded, “I’ve only met him once, so I don’t know much. But he has a very good reputation. He did well at Saint Laurent in its good years, and [former Valentino executive] Brigitte Bongibault was very positive about him.”
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NEW YORK — Store executives here were surprised and concerned when they heard about the departure of Ralph Toledano from Karl Lagerfeld Tuesday.
They spoke highly of Toledano, pointing out that he was able to satisfy competing retailers, and could tactfully handle sensitive decisions about which stores got which exclusives. One source, who preferred anonymity, said, however, there was friction between Lagerfeld and Toledano over distribution and other business concerns. And another executive said Lagerfeld’s line is a difficult sell. “I can’t remember being more upset or disappointed over someone leaving a company as I am about Ralph,” said Michael Gould, chairman and chief executive officer of Bloomingdale’s. “He’s been one of our very, very best partners. He’s got a great appreciation for the business, enormous integrity and he’s a man of his word.”
Lagerfeld dropped Bloomingdale’s in the mid-Eighties, reportedly because the store didn’t build an in-store boutique for the line. This fall, Bloomingdale’s, under new management, built a shop and started selling the Lagerfeld line again.
“Three years ago, I met Ralph for the first time, in Paris,” Gould recalled. “We talked and talked and talked about Lagerfeld coming back to Bloomingdale’s. It took 2 1/2 years, but he’s here and the line is doing nicely.”
Rose Marie Bravo, president of Saks Fifth Avenue, said, “He was an excellent manager and contributed greatly to the success of the business and really figured out a formula to work with the stores and make the lines successful.”