Musical chairs at Delvaux: are the golden days of Belgian fashion over? – Fashion
After ten years Delvaux ended the collaboration with the artistic director Christina Zeller. Is everything going well with the oldest Belgian luxury house? And what about the other Belgians in the fashion world?
Zeller, as Delvaux emphasizes twice, is leaving the company for personal reasons after ten years with the brand, the last three of which were artistic directors. There was no creative disagreement, and their departure is not a business decision either, assures spokesman Michael Van de Wynckel.
Zeller, as Delvaux emphasizes twice, is leaving the company for personal reasons after ten years with the brand, the last three of which were artistic directors. There has been no creative disagreement and her departure is not a business decision, assures spokesman Michael Van de Wynckel, but the news raises questions. The Chinese owners of Delvaux have been on a bumpy course so far. Your other two European brands ended up badly recently. The global pandemic does not help. Queen Christina, as she calls herself on Instagram, will continue to advise Delvaux until the end of the year. It is still unclear whether it will be replaced later, let alone by whom. In the meantime, her team of five takes over the creative work. Delvaux, which has existed since 1829, is a survivor: the oldest European leather goods brand, but also the last part of the still existing First Heritage luxury group. The Hong Kong-based company, largely owned by billionaires Victor and William Fung, acquired the Brussels brand in 2011. The Fungs are part of the family of Li & Fung, a textile giant founded in 1906 by an opium dealer (and English teacher) A year after taking over Delvaux, First Heritage also bought French fashion label Sonia Rykiel and French fashion shoe brand Robert Clergerie, which for several decades long had a boutique on Avenue Louise in Brussels. Business did not go as planned. 1. Sonia Rykiel went bankrupt last year Sonia Rykiel was reorganized by the Fungs until almost nothing was left of it. Sales fell from 100 million euros in 2011 to around 20 million euros in 2018. A new artistic director, Julie de Libran, proved unsuitable for the company and was fired shortly after an extravagant 50-year anniversary show by Inelegant – with an appearance by Bananarama – which the company actually couldn’t afford. Rykiel was declared bankrupt by a Paris court last year after unsuccessful attempts to find a buyer. The brand is being reissued these days by new French owners. 2. Clergerie was sold last summer. Clergerie was sold in July to a Swiss investment fund, the French Legacy Group, which owns the sportswear label Le Coq Sportif, among others. 3. Do storm clouds also hang over Delvaux? Yes and no. Rykiel was stripped naked, while in Delvaux there was apparently no brake on investment. Ten years after the takeover, the Belgian supplier to the Royal Household has an extensive network of its own stores, which are always located in top locations: New Bond Street in London, Fifth Avenue in New York, Place Vendôme in Paris and Omotesando in Tokyo (in a shopping center built by the MVRDV architects’ office). Center, where it has Chanel as a neighbor). There are now about 45 shops and corners, mainly in Asia. There are still seven addresses in Belgium. Sales would have increased tenfold. Belgium would still account for 15 percent of sales compared to 97 percent before the takeover. That all sounds spectacular. But you may wonder how Delvaux can make this gigantic retail investment profitable, especially in times of pandemic. An American real estate specialist estimated the rent of the property along Fifth Avenue next to the Harry Cipriani restaurant on the ground floor of the famous Sherry Netherland Hotel at more than four million dollars a year. The brand has neighbors like Apple, Louis Vuitton, and Central Park. “It’s very difficult,” said spokesman Michael Van de Wynckel. ‘Corona hit us hard. Things are a little better in Asia now, but in Europe we are dependent on tourists from Asia and they will not return for the time being. Last week we opened another new store on Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. This is of course not the ideal time. But we stay positive. “At the Delvaux headquarters in Brussels, some people were temporarily unemployed, certainly until the end of the year. The brand employs around 600 people, spread across the headquarters, shops and workshops. Van de Wynckel himself only works part-time from home. Work continues in the three workshops, one in Belgium and two in France. The question is: how long will Delvaux stay Chinese? The First Heritage Group is no longer a group in practice, and the fate of Rykiel and Clergerie could suggest that the Fungs are looking to divest their European investments as a whole. Delvaux remains a pearl in theory, but probably also in practice. Today, more than ever, it is an authentic luxury brand with international appeal – and boutiques – that didn’t exist a decade ago. Delvaux also has an international reputation and a fantastic history (it patented the first modern handbag in 1908). It also remains a relatively small company: ready-to-eat, one might think, for one of the large luxury groups. No wonder that there is already a lot of talk about a possible sale of Delvaux to one of the main players in the luxury industry. But these are just rumors right now. “A takeover is absolutely out of the question,” says the Brussels headquarters.