Job Cuts Coming to Lanvin, and One of Them is Bouchra Jarrar

WWD is reporting that Bouchra Jarrar is leaving Lanvin. Sources say the designer, who was named successor to Alber Elbaz in March 2016 and has shown just two collections for the house, will exit her position before the spring 2018 show season.

The reports come on the heels of earlier rumors that Lanvin staffers have been expecting job cuts following a drop in sales growth in 2016 and Jarrar’s reported inability to bring the Paris-based brand back to growth. According to Reuters, “The company appointed advisory firm Long Term Partners to conduct an audit and it is due to present its findings to Lanvin's board at the end of this month and recommend ways to reduce the company's cost base.”

It did not immediately seem that Jarrar, who was appointed on the heels of the  abrupt ousting longtime creative director, Alber Elbaz, in 2015, would get the boot, but the news is not terribly surprising given consistent questions as to the appropriateness of her fit at Lanvin, and consistent rumors about friction between Jarrar and Lanvin's chief executive officer Michèle Huiban. 

Reuters reported early this year that Lanvin was expecting to report a net loss of more than 10 million euros ($10.6 million) for 2016 – its first in nearly a decade – against a profit of 6.3 million euros ($6.7 million) in 2015. A tell-tale sign that things have been heading south, according to Reuters: Many items on Lanvin’s website are being offered at very steep discount, some as great as 50 percent off.

“Sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the company's woes stem in part from the uncertainty created by the arrival of its new designer [Jarrar, who was just appointed in March 2016 and only made her debut in September with a collection that was very different from Elbaz's ethereal, light, ultra-feminine silhouettes adorned with clunky jewelry], as well as the luxury spending downturn and under-investment," per Reuters. 

Trouble Has Been Brewing

Controlling shareholder, 75-year-old Chinese media magnate Shaw-Lan Wang who is based in Taiwan, has been reluctant to invest in the brand for many years. Wang would also not let her associate, private investor Ralph Bartel who owns 25 percent, inject more cash into the business as it would dilute her stake.

"It is clear that the company's situation is deteriorating fast and now it is in a stalemate," one of the sources told Reuters. "But since Mrs. Wang simply refuses to sell or (let the capital) be diluted, there is nothing we can do about it. It is so sad for the brand and its staff."

Interestingly, reports of trouble in paradise at Lanvin have been spreading since Elbaz's ouster. According to reports in November 2015, Shaw and chief executive officer, Michele Huiban, sent a letter to all Lanvin employees claiming Elbaz was being ousted due to "the quality of his designs."

Elbaz responded with his own letter shortly thereafter, addressed to Huiban and Wang, in which he expressed his "shock" at their accusations, calling the claims “unjustifiable” and blaming weak management and the lack of a marketing strategy and investment for stagnating sales. Moreover, Elbaz threatened to give a tell-all interview and to seek a legal recourse if they did not cease to “defame his name.”

Monetary issues likely also stem from the fact that Wang has sold off many of Lanvin's assets in the past decade, such as its Japanese operations to Japan's Itochu and its perfume business to Interparfums, which the brand can buy back in 2025. Lanvin is in the midst of a dispute with Itochu over the value of the license it is able buy back, the sources said.