Sebastian Suhl is said to be leaving his post as chief executive officer of Marc Jacobs International, according to market sources. Some rumblings suggest the departure could precede the next round of ready-to-wear-shows in September. Marc Jacobs has long shown on the last day of the New York collections. Suhl, Jacobs and the company declined comment.
Suhl joined Marc Jacobs, whose parent company is LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, in 2014, succeeding Bertrand Stalla-Bourdillon. As incoming ceo, Suhl was charged with, among other things, readying the house for an initial public offering, a process that was expected to take time. The dramatic cornerstone of his plan: consolidation of the luxury and contemporary aspects of the brand under the Marc Jacobs moniker, eliminating the Marc by Marc Jacobs label launched in 2000. The latter drove a hefty percentage of the house’s business and the former, its position at the forefront of global fashion’s most creative sphere.
Another essential element to Suhl’s agenda: growth of an accessibly priced accessories range with an emphasis on handbags. Eventual elimination of the men’s collection, which accounted for only a small percentage of the business, was a foregone conclusion. Following the fall season, the license agreement with Staff International SpA for men’s apparel, accessories and footwear expires, officially taking the brand out of men’s wear.
Suhl arrived at Marc Jacobs from Givenchy, a rising star among LVMH’s senior executive ranks. It was a moment of profound change for the brand. Jacobs had just wrapped up his 16-year stint at Louis Vuitton, set to focus solely on his namesake label, the ownership structure of which was then reconfigured. Previously, LVMH, Jacobs and his longtime business partner Robert Duffy each owned one-third of the Jacobs trademarks while LVMH held most of the operating company. In the re-do, the two entities merged, with LVMH holding an 80 percent stake and Jacobs and Duffy, the remaining 20 percent. Shortly thereafter, Duffy stepped back from day-to-day involvement at the brand while retaining his seat on its board.
Almost three years into Suhl’s tenure, significant challenges remain. In LVMH’s April conference call reviewing the group’s first-quarter results, chief financial officer Jean-Jacques Guiony called the business “quite complicated” and “probably one of the few negative performances we have in the group.” Still, he said, “We are great believers in the future of Marc Jacobs,” and praised what he identified as “a big improvement in its product,” particularly the handbags. “We are extremely confident and in the meantime, we have to reduce the cost base,” Guiony added.
To that end, Suhl has overseen tightening of Marc Jacobs’ vertical retail footprint, with numerous closures in the U.S. and Europe. These include the brand’s first store, on New York’s Mercer Street, opened in 1997, and most of the Marc Jacobs cluster that redefined Bleecker Street in the Aughts. At the height of its West Village retail ascendance, the brand had several doors within a few blocks, including those housing women’s; men’s; special items; accessories, which at one point switched from collection accessories to Marc by Marc; Little Marc, and Bookmarc. Now only Bookmarc remains.
And recently, the company reduced its Paris-based European staff. Without commenting specifically on layoffs, an LVMH spokeswoman said at the time, “We now need to drive further efficiency across our organization in order to operate in a fully integrated manner out of our global headquarters [New York]. The steps we are taking will position us to best leverage the power of the Marc Jacobs brand and position the company to enhance growth and improve performance.”
Last July, Guiony stated emphatically that Marc Jacobs International is not for sale.