While the coming and going of creative directors at major brands is nothing new, the fashion industry was truly shocked when Lanvin fired longtime designer Alber Elbaz. Not only is Elbaz nearly universally beloved but his designs were constant red carpet and editorial hits.
But for luxury brands, the only thing that really matters is the bottom line, and Lanvin's was reportedly suffering. If the French house thought ousting Elbaz would help, they were apparently very mistaken: Reuters is reporting that the "crisis" facing Lanvin is "deepening," with falling sales and growing losses. Lanvin did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Lanvin's collections post-Elbaz have been ill-received, even under creative director Bouchra Jarrar, the haute couture designer appointed to the job in 2016. Where Elbaz's designs were feminine and cheeky, Jarrar has taken a more minimal, menswear-inspired approach that does not appear to resonate with the Lanvin customer. According to figures from Reuters, sales fell 23 percent last year to €162 million (about $182 million), a huge loss from the 2012 peak of €235 million. And 2017 isn't looking much better: A source claims sales have fallen an additional 32 percent in the first quarter of the year. All of that adds up to a shocking net loss of €18.3 million in 2016, which is estimated to widen to €27 million in 2017.
Shaw-Lan Wang, the same majority shareholder who pushed out Elbaz, has reportedly pushed back against efforts to invest in the brand, including rebuffing a cash injection from associate investor Ralph Bartel so as not to dilute her own shares. Instead, Lanvin has brought in advisory firm Long Term Partners, with the agenda of closing nonprofitable stores, a small round of layoffs and potentially creating a "leather goods line for fashion outlets," a move employees reportedly fear would cheapen the brand.
Overall, it sounds like dark days are ahead for one of France's oldest luxury houses, one that Elbaz almost single-handedly turned into a must-have Parisian brand. It's certainly a far cry from the joyous spirit of the brand's heyday.
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