LORENZO TRADES GIVENCHY FOR CYBERSPACE
Byline: Jennifer Weil
PARIS — “I am really excited,” Alain Lorenzo said from his hotel room in San Francisco Thursday, referring to his new position at eluxury.com.
As reported, he has been named president and chief executive officer of the LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton Web site that is due to be launched this spring. Lorenzo was formerly president and ceo of LVMH’s Parfums Givenchy.
Eluxury.com plans to offer a broad array of goods and services aimed at consumers living in the 25 percent of U.S. households with the highest annual incomes. Its ownership includes its own management, LVMH and Europ@web, the Internet investment and operating company controlled by LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault.
Lorenzo said he has long been interested in e-business. “I had been working with Givenchy for eight years and was expecting to move [out of the company] toward the end of the year,” he explained. “But I didn’t want to do the same job in another company — the Internet was really the area in which I was very keen to get involved.”
He also said he’s an avid Web surfer. “As an individual I spend on average one hour per day and two to three hours on the weekend [surfing],” he admitted. “I really love the Internet.”
And although his enthusiasm for his new career is apparent, many beauty industry executives are sad to see him go.
“He has done a great job, and I also like him as a human being,” said Patrick Choel, president of perfumes and beauty at LVMH, who will head up Givenchy on an interim basis. “He is a nice person on top of being an effective ceo. He managed to drive the business in the last three years in the high double digits on a very regular basis. The business last year was past the $273 million mark.” (The figure is translated at current exchange rates.)
Choel added: “This move is good for him; it enables him to try something in which he had lots of interest.”
“He is still very young and it is right he should move on to a new mountain,” agreed Camille McDonald, president and chief executive officer of Parfums Givenchy in the U.S., adding: “On a personal level, I feel like I just lost my best friend and think that eluxury couldn’t have found a better leader in terms of understanding creative imagery, marketing applications and problem solving.
“Givenchy’s loss is eluxury’s gain,” she said.
McDonald said that while Lorenzo was at Givenchy, “he achieved one of the most difficult and rarely [accomplished] feats in a marketing career — he took a mature company whose image grew out of a powerful name and image and successfully evolved it without breaking the core of what the company is about.”
When Lorenzo entered the house, its product and advertising were more traditional and conservative, in line with the positioning of the house run by founder Hubert de Givenchy. But during his tenure, Lorenzo catapulted the brand into the 21st century. Last year alone, he gave hot-selling fragrance Organza a vampy little sister called Organza Indecence and made over the brand’s makeup line by replacing the ornate gold lipstick and nail polishes with aerodynamic matte silver packaging designed by Brazilian sculptor Pablo Reinoso. “[Lorenzo] recognized he had to do that to reflect not only what was happening in the marketplace in general but specifically the obligation to support the Givenchy fashion evolution from Hubert de Givenchy to Alexander McQueen,” McDonald said, referring to the arrival of the designer in 1996.
Perfumers say Lorenzo was on the cutting edge. “He was always extremely involved and always willing to take a risk,” said Nicolas Mirzayantz, vice president and general manager at International Flavors & Fragrances, who worked with him on Organza Indecence and two fragrances under the new Oblique banner for young people. “It was really a pleasure working with him.”
“[Lorenzo] was involved in olfactive decisions — very close to product direction and marketing,” said Armand de Villoutreys, president of Firmenich, who worked with him on the men’s fragrance Pi in 1998. “He managed the rejuvenation of the brand without losing its roots.”
So now Lorenzo’s challenge is to brand-build in another dimension — cyberspace.
“I am not surprised that he has a new challenge — he is a man of challenges,” said Christian Courtin, currently the president of the international division at Groupe Clarins. “He moved with lots of success from the mass market to selective. He has the ability to adopt and is clever.”