Byline: Godfrey Deeny

PARIS — An attorney for Jean Patou SA said the firm had received payment Wednesday of a fine of $6.5 million (35 million francs) from Financiere Agache, stemming from Christian Lacroix’s abrupt departure from Patou in 1987.
Agache is the investment vehicle of financier Bernard Arnault that initially backed the move of couturier Lacroix into his own business. The fine was levied against Agache, Lacroix and Lacroix’s partner Jean-Jacques Picart on charges of unfair competition.
“We’ve won a great victory. The court decided our client deserved a lot of money,” said Michel Escande, the Patou attorney.
Escande added, however, that Agache has decided to appeal the decision to the Court of Cassation, France’s highest court for civil cases. This should take about 10 months to come to court, Escande said.
Neither Lacroix nor Pierre Gode, the former president of the Lacroix company and Arnault’s legal counsel, could be reached for comment. Lacroix president Robert Bensoussan declined to comment on the case.
The size of the fine was decided in September when the Paris Court of Appeals confirmed a July 1990 ruling that Lacroix had broken the terms of his contract with the House of Patou by leaving abruptly in 1987 to start his own house with financing from Arnault. According to French employment law, the couturier was obliged to give three months notice of his departure.
However, he only informed Patou he was leaving on Jan. 31, 1987, and then held a press conference three days later to announce the founding of his own business with the backing of Arnault. Lacroix’s fashion house is now part of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the luxury goods conglomerate controlled by Arnault.
Escande noted that the Court of Cassation can only overrule a court decision on a point of law, and not of fact.
“We are confident that the Court of Appeals ruling will be upheld,” he said.
The designer has repeatedly pointed out that he did not have a written contract with Patou and was only paid around $2,830 (15,000 francs) a month. At the time of Lacroix’s departure, Patou’s owner Jean de Mouy contended that under French law a monthly pay stub automatically implies that a contract has been established.
He also stressed that by leaving suddenly Lacroix had made it impossible for Patou to sell his final collection for the house. De Mouy was traveling and could not be reached for comment.
A spokeswoman for Patou said, “We’re very happy with the judgment, but the case is still in the hands of the lawyers, so we’ll have to wait and see how the next stage works out.”

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