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Transition Time for Talent

Note to designers: It may be worth updating those resumes.

Note to designers: It may be worth updating those résumés. There hasn’t been a time in recent memory with so many top design jobs vacant and major fashion houses in transition mode. In several cases, the state of flux is a result of the mergers-and-acquisitions-friendly market, where cash-rich private equity funds gobble up renowned fashion brands and cause internal structural shifts. The next few weeks and months will determine how their immediate futures will play out. Among the companies to watch in the second half of the year: Tommy Hilfiger, Halston, Bill Blass, Emanuel Ungaro and Gianfranco Ferré.

Tommy Hilfiger, whose company was bought by Apax Partners in May 2006, has a search on for a creative director, and according to the namesake designer, has been looking at high-profile talents like Miguel Adrover. Halston, bought by The Weinstein Co. and Hilco Consumer Capital LLC last March, has been working with consultants Tamara Mellon and Rachel Zoe to steer its future, and it, too, is looking for a top designer to spearhead the revival. Meanwhile, Bill Blass, acquired by NexCen Brands Inc. in December, is hoping to replace designer Michael Vollbracht, who resigned in May. The company is said to have looked at a slew of designers to find its next creative chief, and it is said to be keen on bringing in Peter Som.

In Europe, Emanuel Ungaro confirmed last week that it had parted ways with designer Peter Dundas and was looking for new talent. Then there is the house of Gianfranco Ferré, which, after the death of its founding designer last month, is faced with finding a way to maintain the brand. This could involve bringing in a new designer, or promoting someone from within to lead the creative efforts. For now, the division of IT Holding SpA plans to continue putting out collections created by Ferré’s 35-member design team.