Solange Schwennicke, former CEO of the Delvaux luxury handbag brand, has died last weekend at the age of 85. She built Delvaux into the iconic luxury brand it is today.
A loss-making legacy
The story of Solange Schwennicke (born Sofie Hanssens) began in 1957, when at the age of 19 she met Franz Schwennicke, the director of the Brussels leather goods brand Delvaux. After their marriage, she worked in the company’s creative department as a designer, but after her husband’s death in 1970, she took over the management of the company on her own.
Not an easy feat, as a female CEO was still extremely rare in those days, and all the more so as Delvaux was loss-making at the time. At the time, the leather goods company had 35 employees and three shops in Brussels. But Solange Schwennicke succeeded in changing course and rejuvenating the brand.
Transition to a trendy brand
From a specialist in travel luggage, Delvaux was transformed into a trendy luxury brand, which also attempted to go international. However, this has not been without its challenges. As a Belgian brand, Delvaux was for instance unable to penetrate the French and American markets. In 1994, her son François Schwennicke took over the leadership of the company.
Following the appointment of Christian Salez as the first external managing director in 2008, a majority stake was passed to Asian Fung Brands in 2011, before being fully acquired by luxury holding company Richemont in 2021. By then, Delvaux had 500 employees, 50 shops and a turnover of 130 million euros.