Thursday, 27 May 2010

Hermès says goodbye to JP Gaultier

Rumble in the jungle at Hermès:

After seven years under the creative reign of former fashion enfant terrible Jean Paul Gaultier, Hermès' new creative director will be Christophe Lemaire, who is known in the industry for successfully revamping the image of French sportswear brand Lacoste, where he had been working during the previous eight years. Under the new designer, Hermès is most likely to take a more commercial approach towards its prêt-à-porter  line and move away from the avantgarde approach, Jean Paul Gaultier - and before him Martin Margiela had brought to the maison.

Despite Hermès' consistent sales growth throughout 2009, which continued strongly in Q1 2010 ( 18.5% at current exchange rates). It is commonly known, that prêt-à-porter is mainly an affair to the heart (and for the publicity - think of all the coverage!) and despite the fact that the maison is declaring an overall growth of 19% of the Ready-to-Wear and Fashion Accessories resort, this growth is assumingly driven mostly by the fashion accessories. This however is a development, which is representative for all high fashion houses, who have been drawing most of their sales growth out of their licences and accessories ranges as they are accessible to a bigger segment of customers.
As Hermès' and Jean Paul Gaultier's relationship goes beyond the creative direction - Hermès owns nearly 45% of Jean Paul Gaultier's own label's stock - and despite a statement that Hermès does not intend to sell their shares, according to gossip sources, there are speculations that they might. As Jean Paul Gaultier's fragrance licence - also in this case the cash cow of the brand is owned by Beauté Prestige, Hermès does not profit from his main turnover generator but still profits from his haute couture, RTW collection and his accessories line.
According to Hermès, Jean Paul Gaultier's last collection for the maison will be the spring collection 2011 - which is to be revealed in Paris in October 2010. The same applies for Lemaire, who will be presenting his last Lacoste collection in October as well. His successor has not yet been established.

Jean Paul Gaultier from 2004 on surprised the brands devotees with a rejuvenating cure by revamping the dimensions of the Birkin, creating the Kelly clutch and including Hermès' classical equestrian themes and emblems as details in various accessories and pieces of the RTW collection. Unforgotten also, the staging of his Amelia Erhardt hommage in the fall/winter collection 2009, which just gave one example of the designers visionary approach and his surpassing ability to work with the most luxurious materials in the world in a contemporary realisation.

Farewell, Jean Paul Gaultier, I am convinced you will further impress the French fashion landscape with your own collections. Welcome, Christophe Lemaire - you will have to follow in some massive footsteps.
The fashion industry will certainly keep the eyes open for Lemaire's debut and will anticipate curiously if la maison Hermès will align its strategy further in the seasons to come. Will there be a slight wind of change affecting the French traditional house after Jean-Louis Dumas succumbed to his Parkinson disease earlier in May? 


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