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Is Alber Elbaz heading for Dior? That question was on many lips late Wednesday as the highly regarded designer unceremoniously departed Lanvin after 14 years as its creative director. His longstanding team will now have to complete the pre-fall collection without him.
Elbaz, 54, becomes the third high profile name to top and tail a busy month for departing designers following Raf Simons’ exit from Christian Dior Couture and Alexander Wang’s from Balenciaga.
The Dior link is being made largely because of the coincidence of Elbaz’s and Simons’ departures coming so close together. But there’s no denying it would be a good fit. Elbaz, from his pre-Tom Ford stint at YSL to his work at Lanvin, has been lauded for his strong understanding of the luxury customer and the Dior shopper might seem custom-made for him. IF he did join, it would certainly not be a left field appointment like the recent Balenciaga announcement of Demna Gvasalia of Vetements as design chief.
But the coincidence could be just that and we don’t yet know what’s in Elbaz’s mind. For now, he’s still dealing with the loss of a job he held for 14 years.
In a starchy statement, Elbaz said his departure was the result of “the decision of the company’s majority shareholder,” Shaw-Lan Wang, the Taiwanese businesswoman and publishing magnate who first recruited him.
He added that he hoped the house “finds the business vision it needs to engage in the right way forward.” Ouch!
According to sources telling WWD, tensions between Elbaz and his boss have been building in recent months, with the designer urging his boss to sell her majority stake and make way for a new owner that could better capitalise on Lanvin’s development potential after it suffered falling sales.
Lanvin is a relatively small operation compared to the giants such as LVMH, Richemont, Kering, Chanel and numerous family-owned Italian powerhouses that dominate designer fashion. Several sources estimated Lanvin would need at least €100m of investment to take its development to the next level.
According to other sources Wang rejected several offers for house a few months ago including an informal €400m offer from Valentino’s Qatari owners Mayhoola and another indicative bid of less than €400m from Gucci owner Kering.
Lanvin, meanwhile, issued a brief statement late Wednesday confirming it had ended its collaboration with Elbaz and “would like to thank him for the chapter he has written” for the house.
It also confirmed “the implementation of its corporate strategic plan to continue making the oldest of the Parisian fashion houses the ambassador of French luxury’s excellence, in the independent spirit of its founder, Jeanne Lanvin.”
On a warmer note, Elbaz said of his colleagues: “I wish to express my gratitude and warm thoughts to all those who have worked with me passionately on the revival of Lanvin over the last 14 years; express my affection to all my wonderful colleagues in the Lanvin ateliers who accompanied me, and who enriched and supported my work.”
He added: “I wish the house of Lanvin the future it deserves among the best French luxury brands.”
Lanvin’s minority shareholders include German investor Ralph Bartel, who owns 25%, and Elbaz himself who has a stake of nearly 18%.
It is unclear what Elbaz will do with his stake since he bought part of it thanks to a loan from Wang, sources said.
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