PARIS — A new era could be dawning at Louis Vuitton — and at Marc Jacobs International.
Vuitton and its parent, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, are enmeshed in complex negotiations that could see designer Marc Jacobs wind up his stellar 16-year tenure at Vuitton in order to focus on taking his signature brand to the next level, possibly with an initial public offering, sources said over the weekend.
Parallel to that, Vuitton has held talks with Nicholas Ghesquière about succeeding Jacobs as artistic director of the French luxury brand, the same sources said.
But the denouement may not arrive as quickly as some might have expected.
Talks with Ghesquière — considered the leading contender for the Vuitton crown in a post-Jacobs era, and the talk of Paris Fashion Week — have not been concluded. The likelihood of an agreement with him could not immediately be learned.
Despite speculation that Jacobs — whose current 10-year contract with Vuitton expires in the coming months — could do a swan song with his spring fashion show for the brand on Wednesday, it is understood he could yet be tapped to do more Vuitton collections, including the fall show in March.
Adding an additional frisson of intrigue, Wednesday’s show on the final day of Paris Fashion Week could involve retrospective or archival elements, other sources said. If that’s the case, the runway spectacle could provide a glance back at a fruitful collaboration that helped catapult Vuitton’s — and Jacobs’ — global profile.
Reached on Sunday, an LVMH spokesman had no comment, and Jacobs, in the throes of his show preparations, could not be reached for comment.
WWD broke the news on June 10 that talks to renew Jacobs’ contract with Vuitton centered on recalibrating LVMH’s business relationship with the Marc Jacobs brand — with the Vuitton contract initially a footnote to those discussions.
It is understood an eventual public listing for the Jacobs business remains one of the leading scenarios because it would allow the parties to capitalize on a U.S. market hungry for new share offers, and to resolve complex business entanglements.
Besides owning a majority stake in the operating company Marc Jacobs International, headquartered on Spring Street in Manhattan, LVMH holds one third of the Jacobs trademarks. Jacobs and his longtime business partner, Robert Duffy, who is president of Marc Jacobs International, hold another third each.
Those arrangements date back to 1997, when Jacobs was tapped as artistic director at Vuitton and charged with marching the heritage leather goods brand into ready-to-wear and other fashion categories.
According to sources, talks between Jacobs, Duffy and LVMH over the road map for the future recently hit a roadblock.
While the parties face no deadline, since beyond Vuitton they are linked via ownership of the Marc Jacobs business and brand, they all must agree as co-shareholders on plans for the Jacobs company.
“They’re married for the future,” one source said of the parties. “The question is how they change their relationship.”
It is understood LVMH officials are eager to capitalize on the potential of the Jacobs business, but Jacobs and Duffy “are not yet on board,” the source added.
The road to a listing could be a long one in order to sift through complex value equations. Since LVMH took a stake in Jacobs, the partners have introduced the contemporary brand Marc by Marc Jacobs and rolled out a global network of stores, also extending into businesses ranging from licensed children’s wear to book retailing.
Market sources estimate sales for the entire Jacobs brand across retail is approaching the billion-dollar leagues.
Most recently, Jacobs launched a range of color cosmetics exclusively at LVMH-owned perfumery chain Sephora, which one source described as one of the strongest introductions in the retailer’s history, signaling the brand’s potential.
No doubt Jacobs and Duffy took notice of the staggering valuation Michael Kors achieved when he listed his New York-based fashion house in 2011. Today, the Kors company’s market capitalization is estimated at $15 billion.
Kors, from the same generation as Jacobs, has already cashed out some of his shares and pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars.
(Ironically, LVMH once owned a one-third stake in Michael Kors, which it took in 1999 when Kors was designing its Céline brand. Silas Chou and Lawrence Stroll bought 85 percent of Kors in 2003, including the LVMH stake.)
Meanwhile, speculation about Ghesquière’s future has dominated front-row chatter during the European shows.
That he could wind up at LVMH was a scenario that emerged shortly after Ghesquière parted ways with Balenciaga last November after a 15-year tenure. The Frenchman is frequently seen in the company of designers and executives from LVMH.
Indeed, only weeks after the split from Balenciaga, Ghesquière attended a private Dior dinner attended by the likes of Delphine Arnault, daughter of LVMH kingpin Bernard Arnault and now second in command at Vuitton, and Camille Miceli, Dior’s artistic director for costume jewelry, who had previously held the same role at Vuitton.
WWD has learned that Ghesquière also was approached in recent months by Japanese fashion giant Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., parent of the Uniqlo chain, about a collaboration along the lines of its +J project with Jil Sander from 2009 to 2011.
However, those talks were characterized as preliminary and have ceased. Ghesquière has been mum about his intentions, while hinting in interviews published last May in System and 032c magazines that he was fielding offers and would soon be back to work.
It is understood Ghesquière has talked to various parties, including LVMH and Fast Retailing, about the possibility of launching a signature fashion house.
The designer is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with Balenciaga over declarations made in System. As reported in WWD on Sept. 4, Balenciaga is seeking damages of 7 million euros, or $9.2 million at current exchange, charging that Ghesquière violated their separation agreement, which stipulated that he refrain from declarations that could damage the image of Balenciaga.
Lawyers for Ghesquière and stylist Marie-Amélie Sauvé, who is also named in the suit, are to deposit their arguments at the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris on Oct. 15.
LVMH has had its eye on Ghesquière for years, and had considered him to succeed Lee Alexander McQueen at Givenchy and, more recently, to follow John Galliano at the head of Dior.
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews