PARIS — Another designer seat is vacant, with Yiqing Yin out at Poiret after just two seasons, marking a false start for the recently revived heritage brand. Her successor has yet to be named.
The move suggests that the relaunch of the couture house under the stewardship of Anne Chapelle after a 90-year hiatus failed to take flight in a turbulent environment in which designers are under increasing pressure to deliver results quickly.
The Poiret trademark was acquired in 2015 for an undisclosed sum by Shinsegae International, a division of retail conglomerate Shinsegae Group that imports foreign brands and distributes them through its department stores. Joining a wave of Asian conglomerates investing in heritage Paris-based brands amid rising demand for luxury goods in their region, the acquisition came on the heels of Chinese group Fosun’s back-to-back purchases of Lanvin and Wolford.
Yin’s departure also reflects the inherent complexities of resurrecting a sleeping beauty that has lost its relevance in an overcrowded marketplace despite a deep-pocketed owner, seasoned chief executive officer — with Chapelle backing the Haider Ackermann and Ann Demeulemeester labels — and access to a vast retail network in Asia.
Or possibly, this is just another example of miscasting. According to a source, in the months preceding the official announcement of Yin’s appointment, Chapelle and Shinsegae president Chung Yoo-Kyung “had a few hesitations” about hiring the designer “but decided to give her a chance.”
On Tuesday, the house issued a brief statement thanking Yin for her dedication to the relaunch, without offering further explanation on the split. It could not be learned if the brand plans to present a collection in February or if the strategy is to suspend the label. The house is said to be reviewing different options.
The label sells to 35 retailers globally, including Le Bon Marché, Lane Crawford and Browns.
But all is not necessarily lost. While fashion is an important component of the Poiret brand, the medium- to long-term focus for Shinsegae since the beginning has been perfumes and cosmetics, a strong part of the house’s heritage, according to Arnaud de Lummen, who through his company Luvanis SA sold the brand’s name and archives to Shinsegae International. The French entrepreneur, who has carved out a business selling dormant brands, is seeking an investor to snap up the rights to the dormant Charles James label, as reported. He reintroduced Vionnet ready-to-wear in 2006, later offloading the trademarks, and famously sold Moynat, a prestigious 19th-century trunk-maker, to Groupe Arnault, which recently expanded the brand into Greater China.
Shinsegae International has its own premium brands, including Vov and Vidi Vici, and its portfolio of foreign luxury brands including Givenchy, Celine, Brunello Cucinelli and Moncler. The division acts as the fashion and beauty arm of Shinsegae Group, which bills itself as retailer of premium brands, with more than $20 billion in total assets, as reported.
“Changing designers at a sleeping beauty brand is never mortal,” said de Lummen, for whom the move is more a sign of Shinsegae’s ambition behind the brand than a failure. “Shinsegae invested in Poiret and not the designer….Let’s focus on what’s going to happen next….Maybe they want more press coverage, more followers and bigger sales to support their project for cosmetics and perfume. Maybe they want to hire a name.”
De Lummen said he is often asked: Why bother reviving sleeping beauties instead of focusing on young designers? “And the answer is: If you have a clash with a young designer, you lose your investment, while with a sleeping beauty, if you’re not happy with the designer, you have the luxury of changing them,” he replied.
He cited among other sleeping beauty false starts Schiaparelli, which relaunched with Marco Zanini before switching to current creative director Bertrand Guyon, and de Lummen’s own short-lived casting of Sophia Kokosalaki for Vionnet in 2006. (Her successor Marc Audibet left after a season with the de Lummen family selling the house to Matteo Marzotto and Gianni Castiglioni in 2009. In 2012, it was acquired by London-based Goga Ashkenazi, who in October announced plans to redefine Vionnet’s activities with Vionnet Srl and the operating company NVO Srl going through a voluntary liquidation.)
“Even if Vionnet again is facing issues, it has continued for a decade,” de Lummen noted.
Yin, who previously served as creative director of French fashion house Leonard for two years, was not immediately available for comment. Known for her intricately pleated couture gowns, the Chinese-born designer came to prominence as one of the young voices on the Paris couture scene. She was invited to present her first line at the Hyères festival in 2010, and went on to win the Grand Prize of Creation from the City of Paris and the Andam First Collections prize.
Paul Poiret established his house in 1903 and became famous for freeing women from corsets with his Asian-inspired designs, including his cocoon or kimono coats. Poiret had a passion for decoration, feathers and flowers, as highlighted by “Paul Poiret: King of Fashion,” a 2007 retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He was also the first designer to create a brand that extended to interiors, lifestyle and fragrance.
Other unsuccessful revival attempts of heritage brands include Jacques Fath and Worth, while some sleeping beauties set for a reboot include Jean Patou under Guillaume Henry, with Sidney Toledano, chairman and ceo of LVMH Fashion Group, spearheading the project. LVMH quietly acquired majority control of the dormant brand from London-based Designer Parfums earlier this year.