GUY LAROCHE TAPS ZHOU

PARIS — Guy Laroche, Groupe Bic’s money-losing fashion business, said it has tapped a new ready-to-wear designer, Mei Xiao Zhou, whose debut collection will be shown here on March 15.
Born in Holland, the 32-year-old Zhou was an assistant at Thierry Mugler for the last six years. Prior to that, he was a professional dancer and worked in Tokyo for Sony directing music videos.
The chief design post at Laroche has been somewhat of a revolving door in recent seasons. Sophie Sitbon, whom Zhou succeeds, headed a design team after Ronald van der Kemp was shown the door after only one season. Not since Alber Elbaz designed the line has the house gained the attention of store buyers. Elbaz left Laroche to assume the top women’s ready-to-wear design post at Yves Saint Laurent for three seasons.
In 2000, sales at Laroche were down 28 percent, to $10.12 million from $13.8 million a year earlier, according to Groupe Bic, whose core business is lighters and writing instruments. Sales at Laroche account for less than 1 percent of the group’s total 2000 sales of $1.38 billion, which increased 15 percent over the year earlier.