Fresh Vision: CEO Loubier Aims to Renew Escada

Escada chief executive officer Jean-Marc Loubier is on a mission to reignite the brand.

with contributions from Antonia Sardone
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Escada chief executive officer Jean-Marc Loubier is on a mission to reignite the brand.

Loubier, who took the top post of the 32-year-old Munich-based fashion company in June, is redefining Escada's ready-to-wear lines for fall. Accessories, an area in which the company had dabbled before but never fully pursued, is also a major focus. In addition, Escada is in the midst of refurbishing its stores in a modern design conceived to better merchandise the new and burgeoning categories, with a special area for handbags and other accessories.

Escada has 15 full-price signature stores in the U.S. and seven off-price outlets. It is also sold in Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and specialty stores across the country. Worldwide, there are 194 wholly owned shops and 226 franchised boutiques and corners in 60 countries. Further expansion includes plans to open a store in Tenjin, China.

"We are going back to developing a program of ideas," said Loubier. "The brand is very powerful and embodies the complete territory of ready-to-wear."

Loubier, who succeeded Frank Rheinbold as ceo, has been a member of the Escada supervisory board and chairman of its strategy committee since November 2006. He has a background in accessories — a category that Escada's majority shareholder, Rustam Aksenenko, has wanted to grow — with stints as president and ceo of Celine, and executive vice president of Louis Vuitton. Aksenenko's Geneva-based holding company, Finartis, holds a 25.5 percent stake in Escada AG.

"Over the recent years, the brand and company didn't move much, when the competition has moved into [categories like] accessories," Loubier said. "Now, we're emphasizing perfect solutions for customers."

The brand is divided into two lines: Escada and Escada Sport. Escada is more uptown, with day suits, fur coats, elaborate lace blouses and trousers, while Sport is more downtown, with miniskirts, jeans and chunky knits. Both lines are headed by creative director Damiano Biella, who started in October 2006 and hails from Valentino, Carolina Herrera, Celine and Gucci.

"We want to offer real product, not just fit a designer statement." said Loubier. "We put novelty in something that is genuine. The pressure is not to be cutting-edge. We are a brand with a wide offering."
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