Paul Deneve, the 52-year-old former chief of luxury fashion house YSL returns to Apple.
The unexpected poaching of 52-year-old Paul Deneve from his prestigious post as president and CEO of Yves Saint Laurent to a vice president of Apple is one of the strongest signals yet that the tech giant is not ready to relinquish its place as a leader, innovator and aggressive competitor.
In fact, it's a sign Apple might well be moving into the luxury consumer space, with the shock overnight announcement that Deneve will work on its "special projects". Given his extensive experience in the world of fashion, retail and luxury (including senior positions with Nina Ricci and Lanvin) as well as advising Silicon Valley start ups, this could be a potent combination for Apple to make its mark in the wearable technology field.
In his newly-created role, Deneve will report directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
His replacement from September 1 at YSL will be Francesca Bellettini, who moves over from Bottega Veneta (which, like YSL is housed under the Kering holding company, headed up by luxury titan Francois-Henri Pinault.)
Deneve joined the French luxury house Yves Saint Laurent in April 2011. He oversaw a huge period of transformation at the company, starting with his hire of the reclusive (but respected) creative director Hedi Slimane, who immediately rebranded the ready-to-wear range from Yves Saint Laurent to Saint Laurent Paris, amid plenty of controversy.
In an exclusive interview, Deneve told The Australian Financial Review just two weeks ago that "Hedi's great talent and understanding of the house will enable us to refresh and drive the brand into a new era".
The poaching of Deneve is a coup for Apple, and the Yves Saint Laurent Group (YSLG) will feel his defection acutely. The potent combination of Deneve's business acumen with Slimane's creativity has reaped significant financial reward.
The first quarter revenue from the Saint Laurent Paris range was €127 million ($181 million), and overall Saint Laurent Paris was the only brand within the Kering group's luxury division to post double-digit growth, with Q1 revenues up 16.9 per cent. (Last year, overall sales at YSL rose 34 per cent to €472.8 million.)
During his time at YSL, Deneve made e-commerce a priority - one of the few luxury houses in the world which, for example, offers an Australian site (ysl.com/au). Deneve told the AFR that "having already launched e-commerce in the US in 2007, Europe and Japan in 2011, Australia shone out as the next step for the brand".
"It is evident that there is huge opportunity in the market and as we continue to roll out our expansion plans across the Asia Pacific region, we are keen to explore the potential in Australia."
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