Antoine Arnault to Relinquish CEO Role at Berluti

Antoine Arnault, having transformed Berluti from an elite cobbler into a full-fledged men’s fashion house, is moving into a nonexecutive role at the Paris firm.

He is passing the torch to Jean-Marc Mansvelt, who has been chief executive officer of Chaumet since 2014, and has a prior background in leather goods. Mansvelt is to take up the CEO role at Berluti effective Jan. 1, according to an internal announcement seen by WWD.

More from WWD

The move has triggered an executive shuffle mostly impacting the watches and jewelry division of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

Charles Leung, CEO of Fred since 2018, is to succeed Mansvelt at Chaumet, also on Jan. 1, marking a return to the Paris house for the executive. Leung’s replacement at Fred has yet to be named.

“I am very happy and quite emotional to welcome Jean-Marc as the new CEO of the exceptional maison Berluti, building on values of elegance, audacity and unique savoir-faire,” Arnault said in the internal announcement. “Jean-Marc’s wealth of experience that he has demonstrated throughout these years will be decisive assets in driving the ongoing development of Berluti.”

Toni Belloni, group managing director of LVMH, noted that Mansvelt would be charged with building on Berluti’s positive dynamics. “Under the leadership of Antoine, it has emerged from the pandemic with a great positioning and remarkable revenue and profit growth,” Belloni said.

Jean-Marc Mansvelt
Jean-Marc Mansvelt

The eldest son of LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, Antoine Arnault is to remain chairman of Berluti.

He also maintains a string of other roles at the vast luxury group, including chairman of Loro Piana, head of communication, image and environment at LVMH, CEO of holding company Christian Dior SE, and member of the LVMH board.

It is understood Arnault may take on additional missions for the group in the coming months, but these could not immediately be learned.

To be sure, the affable, hands-on executive passes the torch at Berluti having quietly built a solid foundation for future growth.

Luxury analysts estimate revenues at Berluti have multiplied by about eight times since Arnault assumed the management helm in 2011, approaching 300 million euros this year, and with apparel accounting for about 20 percent of the business. It is understood the company is profitable, and now employs close to 1,100 people, up from roughly 200 in 2010.

Meanwhile, Stéphane Bianchi, CEO of LVMH’s watches and jewelry division, touted the promotion of two of his star executives.

He thanked Mansvelt for his “tremendous achievements at Chaumet” over a nine-year tenure. “His strong vision, his unique understanding of this amazing maison and his ability to create and drive successful teams have taken Chaumet to an unparalleled level,” he enthused.

Analysts estimate Chaumet revenues have reached around 450 million euros, having grown more than fourfold under Mansvelt’s tenure.

As for Fred, Bianchi said Leung “consolidated its unique positioning within LVMH jewelry brands, and experienced a strong and healthy growth, opening new markets while developing a qualitative retail network.”

It marks a return to Chaumet for Leung, who had joined the Place Vendôme jeweler in 2006 to develop and grow its business in the Asia Pacific region.

“I am convinced that with his strong drive and business acumen, his understanding of the jewelry industry and of the different markets, he will take Chaumet to greater heights,” Bianchi said of Leung.

Charles Leung
Charles Leung

To be sure, Antoine Arnault wrote a key chapter in the modernization of a legendary European name in footwear.

Founded in Paris in 1895 by a transplanted Italian, Berluti is best known for shoes in unusual colors and patinas, attracting such celebrity clients as Andy Warhol, Pierre Bergé, Jean Cocteau, Alain Delon, Dean Martin and Yves Saint Laurent.

Back in the day, Berluti hosted polishing parties, which involved a touch of Champagne at the end to achieve a high sheen. Antoine Arnault reprised the ritual in 2015 as the brand marked its 120th anniversary.

Berluti’s most famous style, dubbed the Alessandro after the founding cobbler, is a court shoe fashioned from a single piece of leather without any seams.

At LVMH’s annual shareholders meeting earlier this year, Bernard Arnault called out Berluti’s “shining” performance among its smaller brands, urging members of the audience to test drive its shoes.

“You’ll see they are really amazing,” he said, recalling a visit to a Berluti boutique shortly before LVMH acquired the house in 1993. Olga Berluti, then the maison’s chief bootmaker, greeted the luxury titan, inviting him to sit down and remove his shoes.

According to Arnault, she simply looked at his feet without measuring, dove into the stockroom and returned with “precisely the right shoe. I thought that was extraordinary, so I bought the business.”

Antoine Arnault has had an eventful career at Berluti, charged with leading one of the group’s underdeveloped jewels, which at the time of the handover generated an estimated 80 percent of its revenues from footwear. (It had added leather goods in 2005.)

One of CEO’s first big moves came in 2012, when he acquired French heritage brand Arnys to apply its made-to-measure expertise — and prime retail site on the Left Bank of Paris — in support of Berluti’s expansion drive.

Berluti staged its first runway show in January 2012, the ready-to-wear collection designed by its first artistic director Alessandro Sartori, who also created loafers and sneakers that would become iconic shoes for the brand as it embraced more casual styles alongside Arnys’ legacy of fine tailoring.

After Sartori returned to design for Ermenegildo Zegna, where he earned his reputation, Haider Ackermann took up the reins for a few seasons, bringing his signature nonchalance and a nomadic spirit.

Designer Kris Van Assche, who helmed the creative studio at Dior Homme for 11 years, stepped into Berluti in 2018, bringing meticulous tailoring, zesty color and runway razzmatazz.

At the request of Arnault, the Belgian designer developed a sneaker dubbed the Shadow that has since become of its biggest hits, on track to sell about 20,000 pairs this year, according to market sources.

Berluti wound up its collaboration with Van Assche in April 2021, and now relies on its studio to realize collections in tune with its template of contemporary luxury and timeless style. Key product launches have included the Play-Off sneaker, a logo canvas dubbed La Toile Marbeuf, furniture and leather home objects.

Berluti Men’s Fall 2023
A look from Berluti fall 2023 collection

When Arnault arrived in 2011, Berluti’s business was concentrated in Western Europe, China and Japan. During his tenure, he overhauled and expanded the retail network almost threefold to 67 boutiques, gaining Berluti a foothold in important cities worldwide for luxury goods, and also in promising emerging markets like Southeast Asia.

Another key event in the life of the brand was the 2015 opening of a new production site for shoes and leather goods in Ferrare, Italy, designed by Barthelemy & Grino Architects.

Arnault is a graduate of HEC in Montréal and also has an MBA from INSEAD. He started his career with internet start-up

He joined the family business in 2002, working in Louis Vuitton’s marketing department and overseeing stores in the French provinces. He became a member of LVMH’s board in 2006 and was named Vuitton’s communications director in 2007.

His appointment at Christian Dior SE last December came in tandem with the conversion of Financière Agache, Bernard Arnault’s main holding company, into a limited joint-stock partnership, further locking in family control over the LVMH luxury empire, as reported.

Dior SE is a listed company that is highly symbolic for the family, as Christian Dior was one of the linchpin acquisitions by Bernard Arnault that initiated the construction of the world’s biggest luxury company.

Antoine Arnault is leaving Berluti a fine parting gift: On Thursday, he confirmed the brand would dress French teams for the opening ceremonies of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer. He had also spearheaded LVMH signing on as a premium partner of the global sporting event.

In a note sent to Berluti employees, also seen by WWD, Arnault thanked his collaborators for their commitment. “With you, we invented the Berluti wardrobe, we developed bold, innovative, but always elegant collections,” he wrote. “I will always keep a watchful and passionate eye on Berluti.”

Before joining Chaumet, Mansvelt was leather goods and accessories director at Louis Vuitton. A graduate of the HEC business school, Mansvelt started his career at L’Oréal in 1988, working in marketing and product development. He joined Vuitton in 2004.

Leung boasts degrees from both the Chinese University of Hong Kong and French business school ESSEC in Paris. He started his fine jewelry career at Cartier in marketing and retail before joining Chaumet in 2006.

Berluti shoes in a unique carrying case.
Berluti shoes in a unique carrying case.

Best of WWD