Delpozo cuts business down, says goodbye to general manager
Delpozo will no longer be Delpozo. Nor is it likely that it will be anything that resembles it. This was already a fear that arose when the Spanish brand founded in 1974 suffered the departure of its star designer in September 2018. Over the course of his six years as creative director at the label, architect Josep Font not only played a key role in the reboot of the house, which has been owned by Perfumes y Diseño since 2011, but also honoured the memory of the brand's founder Jesús del Pozo, creating a prêt-à-couture label with an instantly recognisable and unique style. Inevitably, Delpozo became Josep Font. His departure therefore set alarm bells ringing. What could the future hold for a fashion house with an identity so intimately linked to the personality of a brilliant creative director who had now left it?
It is said that a timely retreat is a victory. This is not always the case in business, though, and it is yet to be seen whether or not Delpozo has taken action too late in the day. According to information obtained by FashionNetwork.com, the Madrid-based brand has been progressively shutting down its international operations over the last few months, having even started before it made the announcement that it was seeking new investors in June. Although it has maintained some points of sale, Delpozo has now closed two of the three flagships that it opened in happier times, when the brand could boast 80 points of sale in 34 countries.
Goodbye to flagships and international partners
Delpozo has therefore shuttered its London store, the first international flagship to be opened by the brand, in 2017. The space, located at 134 Sloane Street, has since been taken over by a pop-up store run by Saloni. The Spanish brand has also closed its flagship in the Dubai Mall, which opened in March 2018 through a partnership with Symphony Style.
And this isn't the only retreat that the brand has made abroad. As confirmed by FashionNetwork.com, Delpozo has put an end to its relationships with a number of international partners. Italian showroom Massimo Bonini, for example, which was given the responsibility of developing the production and distribution of the brand's footwear and accessories in early 2018, is no longer in charge of these collections. Furthermore, fellow Italian showroom Riccardo Grassi, who took over Delpozo's wholesale business in October of last year, hasn't been collaborating with the brand since the Fall/Winter 2019-20 season.
The brand's general manager is also making his exit and embarking on a new project. "It's been a very enriching experience. I'm grateful for having had the opportunity to work with such an intellectual brand, which transcends all others with its special style. I was thrilled to work there," said Pablo Badía when confirming to FashionNetwork.com that he would be leaving Delpozo at the end of December, after two and a half years as the label's general manager. The executive, who led Spanish kids' fashion group CWF for almost four years, began his career at Sociedad Textil Lonia, before going on to work at brands including Caramelo and Karen Millen.
He arrived at Perfumes y Diseño-owned Delpozo in 2017, succeeding Carlos Trolez, son of group president Pedro Trolez Martínez, who had stepped in as interim general manager at the beginning of the same year. Prior to this, the brand's top management spot had been empty since the departure of Ainhoa García, who left the house in January 2015, following eight years of leading the brand's transformation as its general manager. Now Delpozo will once more have to do without a captain at its wheel, at least until the revelation of its new owner, who will no doubt implement a new structure in line with its future plans for the brand. As for Badía, his next steps are yet to be confirmed.
Creative uncertainty for the future, big discounts for the past
Uncertainty also reigns over the future of the house's creative direction. At the end of 2018, Perfumes y Diseño lost no time in announcing Josep Font's successor: German designer Lutz Huelle. However, it seems that the strategy has not worked out as planned. The new creative director's highly-anticipated debut collection for the brand never materialised and, officially, the designer has only overseen the creation of the house's pieces for Fall/Winter 2019-20, a transition collection designed by Delpozo's in-house creative teams.
Contacted on various occasions by FashionNetwork.com, Huelle has refused to pass comment on the brand where, until further notice, he is still creative director. According to other sources, the German designer will be responsible for the brand's Resort 2020 collection and will be taking part in a collaborative project to be announced in the near future. His continuation as creative director will, however, depend on the plans of Delpozo's future management.
All in all, it might be a case of one too many false moves for a complicated business in whose relaunch Perfumes y Diseño already invested 5.5 million euros between 2013 and 2016. In fiscal 2018, Delpozo announced a loss of 3.8 million euros on sales of 3.5 million euros, figures that are a far cry from the 10 million euros in sales projected by the brand for 2019, as well as from the 6.4 million euros that it reported in 2015.
These worrying results have led the company not only to beat a hasty retreat from international markets, but also to double down on efforts to get rid of stock. Delpozo has been selling pieces from its past collections with discounts of up to 95% in its Madrid store, the brand's last remaining brick-and-mortar location, situated at 19 Calle Lagasca. Although a range of sources have affirmed that these sales have been working "very well," one question appears inevitable: how much damage might be done to the value of the historied house's name by the selling off of its heritage at outlet prices?
It's a question for which the label's new owners will have to find an answer. Although Perfumes y Diseño announced the sale of a majority stake to an "industrial partner who can maintain the strategic plan of the fashion company" last September, the name of Delpozo's new owners is yet to be disclosed. Having considered up to three different options since May 2018, negotiations are apparently still ongoing, as confirmed by the group to FashionNetwork.com.
What went wrong?
"When someone bought pieces from Delpozo, it was because they had already been able to buy various pieces from Valentino and Dior," commented a source with knowledge of the situation to FashionNetwork.com, going on to explain that the artistic nature of its designs meant that the brand was very expensive, with pieces priced upwards of around 1,000 euros. And this was at a time when the brand's name did not justify such a large investment. With rising production costs, increasingly problematic levels of profitability, local partnerships that have not worked out as desired and the long shadow cast by Josep Font, Delpozo has brought more than its fair share of challenges to Perfumes y Diseño.
The future of the brand, which is reportedly passing into the hands of a foreign group, will no doubt be different, but it will also be a second chance. Although the Puig group – specialised in perfume but also involved in the development of fashion brands – is the only large Spanish luxury fashion conglomerate, other brands of the same origin, such as Loewe and Balenciaga, have managed to ensure their survival as part of French groups. Similarly, historied luxury houses like Patou and Sonia Rykiel have also recently been saved thanks to new investors. While the future of Delpozo remains to be seen, one thing is sure: the Madrid-based house deserves a saviour who will do justice to its name and history.
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