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Esteban Cortazar Said Out at Ungaro

Fashion designer Esteban Cortazar's exit follows clash with management at Ungaro.

PARIS — It looks like the revolving door at Emanuel Ungaro will spin yet again.

This story first appeared in the June 5, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.


According to sources, the French fashion house plans to part ways with Esteban Cortazar, who has shown three collections on the runway. It is understood the designer reached an impasse with Ungaro management over its marketing and advertising strategy.

Mounir Moufarrige, Ungaro’s chief executive officer, is said to be pushing for a celebrity for future ad campaigns to help wake up the house, and has been in talks with about half a dozen potential candidates, including Lindsay Lohan, but they would have nothing to do with design.

Moufarrige could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Ungaro has not done a campaign for its women’s wear for years, and the executive is keen to revive its provocative heritage, sources said. The couture house, founded by Emanuel Ungaro in 1965, once featured an ad of a dog in a studded collar licking a woman’s feet, for example.

The identity of potential successors to Cortazar could not immediately be learned, but Moufarrige is known for making bold and unexpected decisions, most famously for replacing Karl Lagerfeld with Stella McCartney, then age 25, as head designer of Chloé in 1997. He had a long career at Chloé parent Compagnie Financière Richemont, most notably at Dunhill and Montblanc, where he put its emblematic black pen at the center of development.

More recently, the peripatetic executive convinced leather goods purveyor Goyard to translate its iconic canvas in a range of colors, and turned oversize watch brand U-Boat into an in-demand item.

Bogotá, Colombia-born Cortazar presented his first signature collection in New York at the age of 18 and was embraced by retailers such as the late Kal Ruttenstein at Bloomingdale’s. He arrived at Ungaro at age 23, succeeding Peter Dundas, who had replaced Vincent Darré.

Ungaro has been wracked by instability in the design department since its founding couturier retired in 2004. His handpicked successor, Giambattista Valli, had some success, but he clashed with management. Ferragamo purchased Ungaro in 1996 and sold the business in 2005 to high-tech entrepreneur Asim Abdullah.