By  on July 6, 2005

PARIS — It looks like she had the inside track.

After interviewing a slate of prominent female candidates, Celine has opted for an in-house talent, Ivana Omazic, to become its next designer, WWD has learned.

According to a source here, 32-year-old Omazic, who joined Celine as a consultant last April from Miu Miu, will be named to head design at the fashion and accessories firm owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. An announcement is expected shortly.

Omazic will succeed Roberto Menichetti, who exited Celine last May after a lackluster one-year collaboration. Although she had a hand in the cruise line already sold to buyers, Omazic is expected to show her first complete collection on the runway during Paris Fashion Week in October.

Born in Zagreb, Croatia, Omazic studied fashion at the European Institute of Design in Milan. Upon graduation, she joined Romeo Gigli for one year before moving on to Prada Group. There, she worked on the Prada Sport and Jil Sander brands, but she was most recently women's ready-to-wear design coordinator at Miu Miu.

Neither LVMH nor Celine officials could be reached for comment on Tuesday. However, it is understood the house was eager to find a designer willing to be devoted exclusively to Celine. Menichetti parted ways with Celine partly because he could not dedicate enough time to the Paris brand given his desire to expand his signature collection, based out of Gubbio, Italy. He replaced Michael Kors, who also divided his time between his signature collection and Celine.

LVMH also asked its new couturier at Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci, to suspend his signature collection, suggesting a change in strategy for the French luxury giant. LVMH has typically hired high-profile designers for its brands and allowed them to do double duty on their signature lines.

As reported, the search for Menichetti's successor spanned candidates such as Raf Simons and Peter Som, but recently centered on a group of designing women, including Isabel Toledo, Veronique Branquinho and ex-Gucci-ite Alessandra Facchinetti.

Despite turmoil in the design department since Kors' exit last year after a successful seven-year stint, Celine has been soldiering ahead, especially in the leather goods department. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the house recently introduced a limited-edition range of three handbags dubbed "Les Parisiennes," designed with input from a French novelist, an art photographer and a fashion curator.Headed by chief executive Jean-Marc Loubier since 2000, the house is believed to have turned a profit in 2003 and 2004, aided by a major restructuring and growth in high-margin leather goods. The latter category is believed to generate about 40 percent of brand sales.

LVMH does not give volume breakdown for individual brands, but market sources estimate Celine's volume at around $200 million. It operates a network of some 110 stores, including recent additions in Florence, Italy and Tokyo's Ginza district.

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