Since beloved Lanvin creative director Alber Elbaz was ousted last week, employees at the French design house have been demanding accountability from its owner, Shaw-Lan Wang. Today, though, WWD reports that their requests have been denied by management, and communications have devolved so far that a labor inspector has been called in to intervene.
Workers have, according to WWD, generally requested Wang meet with them and talk through the changes—a reasonable query after the departure of the man who’s defined the brand for 14 years. But they were also demanding Elbaz’s reinstatement as creative director; rather than facing the unrest, Lanvin leaders have, according to employee representative Charles Henry Paradis, just iced them out:
“We have reached a point of no return in terms of labor relations,” Paradis told WWD on Wednesday. “General management is trying to play for time by using delaying tactics to try to choke us financially. There is a breakdown in relations between staff representatives and management that is unheard-of.”
Paradis said that among the issues staff would like to address are forecasts that Lanvin will post a loss this year for the first time since 2007, and the high level of employee turnover at the firm. He said the labor inspector would write to Lanvin officials to remind them of their obligations under French law.
A spokesperson for Lanvin shrugged off the statement, telling WWD that Paradis’s claim “does not correspond with reality.” Even if true, it’s clear that Lanvin employees are at least a little disgruntled at the unceremonious dismissal of Elbaz, their leader and the designer who elevated Lanvin to iconic status over the course of his 14-year tenure. Upon the announcement of his departure, employees reportedly kept it very French and chanted his name through tears. Either way, it’s fascinating to see a labor dispute within a storied design house become as high profile as this one, particularly in an industry where the workers inside the houses are relatively quiet compared to the figureheads who run them.
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