PARIS — The house of Jean Paul Gaultier said Tuesday it would replace its outgoing president with an executive who has worked at Ines de la Fressange and most recently at Balmain.
Eric Labaume, 53, who also has worked at French manufacturer Mendes, succeeds Donald Potard, who departed last week, the most recent sign of problems at the French house.
Potard, 53, a childhood friend of the designer, had worked at Gaultier’s side for decades. But recently their relationship was said to have been strained; internal dissent flared against Potard as he instituted the first phase of a painful restructuring plan to lift the house out of the red.
Potard’s relations with Hermès International, which owns 35 percent of Gaultier and employs Gaultier as the designer of its women’s ready-to-wear collection, were also said to have deteriorated.
In January, the house cut 31 jobs in a bid to stem losses it had incurred during two consecutive years. Potard, who said the plan would begin to bear fruit later this year, insisted the company remained committed to its money-losing haute couture activity. He blamed losses on the bad economy and investments made in new boutiques, including flagships in New York, London and Paris.
Gaultier said he picked Labaume for the “variety and quality of his experience in the luxury sector,” but he faces the task of channeling the designer’s formidable creative energy into a profitable business. Labaume will also have to tangle with an unusual business model by today’s standards, which is based heavily on licensing, even for core products such as rtw and jeans.
Revenues at Gaultier totaled 28 million euros, or $36.4 million at current exchange rates, up from 6 million euros, or $7.8 million, in 1990, when Potard was promoted to president. At retail, sales of Gaultier branded products were 570 million euros, or $741 million, in 2004.