By  on March 29, 2007

PARIS — Dior Homme is bidding adieu to Hedi Slimane and is close to replacing him with Kris Van Assche, WWD has learned.

Sources said the French fashion house is zeroing in on a contract with the 30-year-old Belgian designer, who cut his teeth at Slimane's side before launching his signature brand in 2005. An announcement is expected in the next few days.

It is understood Dior wants to plot a new path for its men's wear and move on from Slimane, yet with a designer familiar with Dior Homme's codes and possessing a strong knack for tailoring. Neither Dior officials nor Slimane could be reached for comment Wednesday.

The ouster of Slimane — one of luxury titan Bernard Arnault's biggest fashion talents — is bound to reverberate throughout the industry, signaling stardom is no guarantee of job security and that brand owners are not prisoners of their creative talent. The split with Slimane mirrors those of Jil Sander and Helmut Lang at their respective houses, which at the time were owned by Prada Group.

As reported in WWD Wednesday, Dior became "fed up" with Slimane's demands during protracted negotiations to renew his contract, which expired last July. Sources said control rights were the most contentious issue, with Slimane, an exacting sort, determined to nail down even niggling details about brand strategy and business plans. Since his arrival at Dior Homme, he assembled a press department independent of the main fashion house and constructed a minimalist atelier — complete with a monolithic ceiling speaker — down the road from Dior headquarters on Rue François 1er.

The failure to renew Slimane's contract also scuttles plans for Dior to back a Hedi Slimane fashion house, long a dream of the designer, who was keen to branch out into women's wear and other lifestyle categories such as home furnishings.

Sources said Dior was willing to back a signature house, but there were wide differences over the estimated value of the Hedi Slimane brand and control rights. Slimane was reluctant to give up ownership of his name, even if LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton owns the companies producing the collections of its other design stars, John Galliano and Marc Jacobs.

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