Celine Finds Its Man: LVMH Expected to Name Menichetti

It looks like LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton went fishing in Italy again for its latest high-profile designer.

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Menichetti arrives at Celine at a time when the house is experiencing strong momentum, with annual sales growth estimated at 30 percent and the profit picture improving rapidly. Market sources estimate Celine’s sales at about $200 million a year.

The brand, which celebrates its 60th birthday next year, started as a children’s footwear firm. Kors was only the second designer at the house after founder Celine Vipianas. Luxury czar Bernard Arnault acquired it in 1987 and made it part of the LVMH fashion universe in 1994. Celine president Jean-Marc Loubier has kept a tight lid on his search for a successor to Kors. Early speculation had centered on the Milan-based Canadian design team of Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared, as well as Paris-based Australian Martin Grant.

In an interview prior to Kors’ last show in March, Loubier said over the last four years he has focused on cutting lead times, improving Celine’s retail network and revamping the design, merchandising and marketing functions at the company. “We worked a lot on the product, and pushed the teams,” he said at the time. “It’s very easy to do beautiful $5,000 bags, but how do you do a good one at $800?”

Ready-to-wear represents about 42 percent of Celine’s sales, followed by leather goods at 41 percent, footwear 11 percent and the balance from other products and royalties.

In discussing the choice of Kors’ successor, Loubier said in March that the designer would be asked to remain faithful to Celine’s optimistic spirit, French flavor and smart clientele. “She’s a woman with a brain, energetic and witty, involved as much in her work as in her leisure,” he said of Celine’s customer. “We know exactly the person we are targeting.”
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