YSL WORKERS TOLD OF PLANNED RESTRUCTURING

Byline: Sarah Raper

PARIS — In a first step toward overhauling the Yves Saint Laurent fashion business after its takeover by Gucci Group, YSL company managers said Tuesday that they had met with workers’ committees to present a reorganization proposal.
WWD has learned that as many as 300 jobs could be lost as a result of proposed changes at the fashion company. The meetings with representatives for the workers at the house as well as its manufacturing subsidiary, C. Mendes SA, concern changes in the women’s ready-to-wear and accessories businesses only and are required under French law. It is the first step in a negotiating process between management and workers and is expected to last for several months.
In a statement issued Tuesday, YSL said the restructuring was prompted by “static sales both in France and internationally and a gradual reduction in the appeal and positioning of the Yves Saint Laurent brand throughout the world.”
YSL president Mark Lee declined to be interviewed, and the secretary of the worker’s committee, Jean-Claude Le Francois, could not be reached.
According to sources, about half of the layoffs are related to plans to end production of the Variations diffusion line.
The company is looking for a buyer for its plant in Tours, France, where that line is manufactured.
The statement did not address layoffs beyond saying that the company intended to concentrate on the Rive Gauche line.
In addition to eliminating Variations, the reorganization encompasses “repositioning the brand through redefining its image and investments in communications” and “a new store concept and the adoption of a new business model centered upon direct control of production and distribution.”
Tuesday’s announcement, though short on details, was the first official statement by YSL management on its intentions for the business.
Gucci took control of YSL fashion late last year and quickly made it clear that, creatively, Tom Ford would be in charge. Ford continues in his role as creative director at Gucci. In March, Alber Elbaz left the house after three seasons as designer of Rive Gauche, and soon after Hedi Slimane announced that he was stepping down as YSL men’s designer but was pursuing negotiations with Gucci to set up a business under his own name.
In recent weeks, there have been a trickle of other departures, including Connie Uzzo, who was the longtime American market director, and Ari Hoffman, president of Paris Collections, the U.S. distributor of YSL Rive Gauche, as many of the Ancien Regime associated with founders Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge are replaced with new blood.

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