EXCLUSIVE: Lanvin Deputy CEO Seeks Profitability by 2023

PARIS — Lanvin aims to become profitable by 2023, thanks to a new turnaround plan that includes an accessories thrust and the downsizing of the Paris headquarters, according to deputy chief executive officer Arnaud Bazin.

“I want to continue building this iconic French fashion label and I would like to see it resonate all over the world,” said the executive, speaking to WWD in an exclusive interview.

As reminded by the sudden passing of Alber Elbaz last week, which threw the spotlight on memories of his electrifying tenure at the house over nearly a decade and a half, the storied French label has gone through a tumultuous period since the designer left in 2015.

A series of false starts ensued, and the house suffered a liquidity crisis in 2018, as it churned through designers.

Bruno Sialelli, who was recruited from Loewe in 2019 by new owner Fosun to take up creative direction, has brought stability to the brand design-wise over several seasons, with his youthful approach to French glamour featuring playful proportions.

Now come plans, set by Bazin, to reach profitability.

“We have not performed as expected,” said Bazin, referring to the past five years at Lanvin, which is considered the crown jewel of Fosun Fashion Group, also owner of Wolford, St. John and Caruso.

Bazin, a former Versace executive with 25 years of experience in the luxury sector, was brought on last fall, following the departure of CEO Jean-Philippe Hecquet after 18 months, to work alongside Grace Zhao, deputy general manager for the Asia Pacific businesses.

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“We want to put the Lanvin brand and our clients at the center of our efforts,” said Bazin, noting he meant an emphasis on iconic products in men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, while also developing new categories to develop the brand in France and abroad.

Executives are seeking to buff up the brand’s image to address both longtime and younger, international clients by drawing on the heritage of founder Jeanne Lanvin, the logo and its mother-and-daughter image, the blue hues associated with the brand and the Paris flagship, which is undergoing renovation.

“One of the first axes is to clarify the identity of the brand to make it more attractive and desirable,” Bazin said.

Another important focus is accessories, and the executive aims for sneakers, leather goods and costume jewelry to bring in half of sales — doubling their proportion of overall sales, which stands at around 25 percent — with the other half coming from men’s and women’s rtw, tailoring, eveningwear and daywear.

Leather goods have historically been underdeveloped at the label. Indicating its current emphasis on the category, Sialelli has revived a range of handbags, including an elegant pencil bag with an arched feline as a handle — originally designed by Armand-Albert Rateau for Jeanne Lanvin — as well as the pillowy Sugar bag from the early Aughts.

China is another key focus for the brand, which has lagged in the region, noted the executive, who plans to double the number of stores on the mainland from six to 12 as part of the turnaround plans. Lanvin presented its spring 2021 collection in a fashion show in Shanghai last October and the previous year, held a 130-anniversary clothing exhibit in the city.

On the digital front, another priority for executives, Lanvin plans to reinforce communication with a younger, connected audience, as well as meet their consumption through channels like Farfetch.

“We are are putting into place an agile and more efficient organization, working with smaller teams, and working on a project-basis — everything will become a project — and there are two functions we will reinforce —merchandising with clients and marketing around the brand,” he explained.

Profitability is central to the plans, and the executive has set a goal of positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization from 2023.

The house has seen revenues decline from a peak level of 235 million euros in 2012 to around 62 million euros in 2018. Noting the decline corresponds to about a fourth of the peak figure, the executive said the structure of the house had not been streamlined by the same proportion.

“Today we need to implement our transformation plan to handle this mismatch with the house’s cost structure — to return to a cost structure that corresponds to current and future performance,” he said.

“I want a sustainable future for Lanvin, a house that has gone through a lot of change and transitions. Today we are lagging when it comes to cost structure compared to luxury industry standards, and we can no longer maintain this,” he said, estimating plans could affect around 40 of the 180 jobs in the Paris headquarters. Management is in discussion with employee representatives.

“Lanvin truly needs to adapt its organization to meet these objectives for current and future performance — this calls for a complete revision of our value chains and organization,” Bazin said.

While new job positions will be created, others will evolve and some will be eliminated, the executive said.

The brand counts around 250 employees globally, with 10 stores in Asia, six in the U.S. and five in Europe.

Plans to double the number of stores in China will entail an increase in the number of employees there, he said, noting that market calls for specific skill sets in retail.

Fosun Fashion Group recently forged an alliance with e-commerce firm Baozun and Activation Group — which played a role in Lanvin’s Shanghai fashion show — pooling resources to better capture luxury demand in China. The brand is on Alibaba’s Tmall, and its Chinese Valentine’s Day May 20 capsule sold out online in the country within hours.

In Paris, Lanvin is consolidating its two facing flagship stores into one. The women’s store and historic headquarters at 22 Rue de Faubourg Saint Honoré is currently being refurbished, and will feature three stories, rather than the previous two, uniting men’s and women’s wear and accessories. A VIP section will be situated on the third floor, next to Jeanne Lanvin’s former office, which has been preserved for a century.

“It’s exactly as she left it, with book shelves and everything — it’s going to be an experience we will be able to offer our clients,” he said.

Asked about how the brand has gauged the popularity of its designs, the executive pointed to support from loyal, individual clients as well as wholesale customers — the latter account for half of group sales. The executive aims to keep this same proportion of own retail and wholesale. As it focuses on its transformation plan, aside from the added stores planned for China, the brand plans to continue with its current network, although it is looking at temporary, pop-up installations in resort locations, like the South of France, in Italy and the U.S., for example, Bazin said.

Asked about the latest video presentation, for the upcoming fall collection, that features a young, well-heeled cast driving miniature cars in flouncy party dresses through the gilded corridors of the Shangri-La hotel in Paris, the executive said that yes, it represented the style the brand seeks to convey — a modern, youthful set out for post-COVID-19 festivities.

“The teams have been waiting for this — an ambitious return to profitability. It’s a plan structured around the recovery of Lanvin, to put it where it should be and where we’d like to see it,”  Bazin summed up his plans.

“This is really a new departure for Lanvin,” he said.

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