Ralph Toledano Resigns From Puig in Fashion World Upheaval


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Ralph Toledano during Paris Fashion Week in 2016. His exit from Puig is among the most significant management changes of an already tumultuous year.

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Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images

PARIS — The turmoil that has been roiling the corporate and the creative sides of the fashion world has not spared one of the industry’s most opaque groups: Spain’s family-owned fragrance and fashion conglomerate, Puig.

Ralph Toledano, one of French fashion’s most high-profile executives, has unexpectedly resigned as president of Puig’s fashion division and chief executive of Nina Ricci and Jean Paul Gaultier.

A spokesman for Puig, Loïc Seailles, confirmed Mr. Toledano’s resignation, saying it was to pursue other interests, but declined to say when or whether the company would release a statement. Mr. Toledano declined to comment on his departure. However, his exit is among the most significant management upheavals of the year thus far.

Known as “Mr. Paris Fashion Week” because of his position as chairman of French fashion’s governing body, the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode. Mr. Toledano, 65, is also widely respected in the industry as a talent spotter.

Before joining Puig in 2012, he had been responsible for hiring such celebrated designers as Alber Elbaz (whom Mr. Toledano brought to Paris as creative director of Guy Laroche) and Phoebe Philo at Chloé. At Puig, Mr. Toledano was responsible for recruiting a new generation of creative talent, such as the designers Guillaume Henry at Nina Ricci and Julien Dossena at Paco Rabanne.

Mr. Toledano’s exit is the latest in an unprecedented wave of executive changes in the fashion industry, as it attempts to come to grips with a slowdown in luxury spending because of lower tourist travel and geopolitical uncertainty.

In the past two years, for example, Kering, the French parent company of brands such as Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, has changed either the creative or management leadership at more than three quarters of its 15 luxury companies. In Britain, Burberry has welcomed Marco Gobbetti as its new chief executive, as Christopher Bailey steps back from that role to become president and chief creative officer. Céline, the French brand owned by Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, also named a new chief this year, and in the United States, Stefan Larsson resigned as the head of Ralph Lauren.

Puig derives the bulk of its revenue from its business as a licensed perfume maker for big brands such as Valentino and Prada, and it also owns the small couture and ready-to-wear businesses Paco Rabanne, Jean Paul Gaultier and Carolina Herrera, as well as those brands’ respective perfume businesses.

For Puig, the changes at the top have been relatively recent.

Earlier this year, François Kress, chief executive of Carolina Herrera, left that brand after a public kerfuffle around the hiring of the designer Laura Kim as effectively a creative director-in-waiting. It was a move made without the knowledge of Mrs. Herrera herself, and one that resulted in a lawsuit, now settled. Ms. Kim is currently co-creative director of Herrera rival Oscar de la Renta.

Puig’s fashion brands have been struggling to compete with rivals that have invested significantly more resources in building their distribution, digital presence, image and product assortment.

Several people who have left Puig said they felt the group appeared to be more focused on its short-term financial performance than on building fashion brands over the long term, which required patience and major investments that would weigh on its bottom line.

Mr. Toledano, for example, oversaw the folding of Jean Paul Gaultier’s ready-to-wear business into its haute couture operations in 2014 to stem the company’s losses. Jean Paul Gaultier’s fashion business is estimated to generate annual sales of about 20 million euros, or about $21.7 million — a very small sum compared with its perfume revenues, estimated between €150 million to €200 million.

While Mr. Toledano has declined to reveal his future plans, he is expected to continue in his role at the Fédération Française. And at Puig, there are two new executives waiting in the wings. Sophie Templier, a former close associate of Mr. Toledano’s from Chloé, has been named managing director at Nina Ricci. And Bastien Daguzan, a graduate of IFM (l’Institut Français de la Mode) and the chief executive of the French fashion brand Christophe Lemaire, is expected to be named the new managing director of Paco Rabanne, a brand estimated by analysts to generate several hundreds of millions of euros in perfume sales, driven by best sellers such as 1 Million.

(Mr. Daguzan and Puig declined to comment on his imminent arrival at Puig.)

Whether Ms. Templier and Mr. Daguzan will have the kind of chemistry with their creative partners that can transform a fashion brand into a market-beating hit remains to be seen. However, Nina Ricci’s designer, Mr. Henry, hired in 2014, is expected to stay on — at least until the end of his contract, which lasts another two years, according to recruiters.

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