Ralph Lauren Gambles On New CEO With Background In Beauty (And Laundry) Products

Image courtesy of Ryan J. Quick

After the last CEO of Ralph Lauren (the clothing company) butted heads with Ralph Lauren (the man) and made a quick exit in February, the company has announced it’s taking a slightly different tack by hiring a new top executive without prior experience in the apparel business.

The new CEO, Patrice Louvet, replaces short-tenured top exec Stefan Larsson, who joined Ralph Lauren in 2015 after jumping ship from Old Navy.

Unlike Larsson, Louvet comes to the preppy fashion brand not from another clothing company or apparel retailer, but after more than 25 years at Procter & Gamble — a company mostly familiar for brands like Tide, Pampers, and NyQuil.

However, he most recently ran P&G’s global beauty business, which includes fragrances for fashion brands like Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana, and Gucci.

That lack of clothing experience doesn’t seem to bother company founder Ralph Lauren, who stressed the importance of “finding the right partner” for him to work with.

“He’s an enormously skilled business leader with a deep passion for the consumer and a sophisticated understanding of building global brands,” Lauren said. “This, combined with his collaborative working style, transformation experience and intense focus on results, will put us in a stronger position as we move toward the future.”

Wall Street doesn’t appear convinced quite yet at the unusual choice, notes Bloomberg, with shares falling to their lowest level since July 2010 in trading on Wednesday.

This lackluster response might mean that “investors expected someone with a slightly different professional background, and more meaningful track record in apparel and the fashion industry,” Chen Grazutis, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence said, but “that doesn’t mean he can’t be very successful in this role.”

Ralph Lauren could use whatever help it can get: The company recently announced it would be closing stores — including its flagship Polo location in New York City — and cutting jobs as it tries to turn things around amid declining foot traffic and sluggish sales.