After seven years under the helm of fashion's enfant-terrible, Jean Paul Gaultier, Hermes has hired Christophe Lemaire as its new creative director. Lemaire previously worked as Lacoste's creative director for eight years.
With Gaultier out and Lemaire in, it's undeniable that Hermes is finally taking a more commercial approach to its ready-to-wear collection. Under the command of Gaultier, and earlier Martin Margiela, Hermes prêt-à-porter gained an avant-garde reputation which, while popular in editorials, was not popular in stores.
We're expecting Lemaire's first collection, due in March 2011, to be sportswear heavy, helping to transform Hermes' ready-to-wear collection into a viable business.
Hermes, however, still owns nearly half of Gaultier's own label. While the company says it's not planning to sell its stock in Jean Paul Gaultier, there are indications that it probably will.
Hermes does not own Gaultier's main money maker, his fragrance license. Beauté Prestige International does, meaning that Hermes only reaps the benefits of Gaultier's collection, couture, and accessories lines whose sales are not very high. (Sure, it makes some money form the license, but not as much as Beauté Prestige.)
If Hermes sells, we're hoping that a larger conglomerate, like LVMH or PPR, will invest in Jean Paul Gaultier, or else it might be au revoir Jean. Christian Lacroix suffered a similar fate, when after leaving Pucci in 2005, LVMH sold its stake in his label, which was bought by the Falic Group, only to file for bankruptcy four years later.