PARIS — If Gucci Group could bid arrivederci to its design dynamo Tom Ford, could Christian Dior say au revoir to its men’s wear star Hedi Slimane?

Sources said Dior has reached an impasse in negotiations to renew Slimane’s contract as the designer of Dior Homme, and salary demands are among the chief roadblocks.

The designer’s three-year contract is set to expire next month and could make for a tense atmosphere at the Dior Homme show July 4 at the crescendo of men’s fashion week.

A resolution is still possible and talks continue, but sources familiar with the negotiations are already drawing comparisons to the Ford situation. Gucci Group stunned the fashion world in 2003 when it parted ways with its famous design director.

Sources said Dior management — balking at Slimane’s demands — has been quietly girding for a possible split and refining a contingency plan, including a possible replacement candidate. The identity of the front-runner could not immediately be learned; however, one source described the choice as “wise” and one that would be likely well received by the fashion press. It is understood Dior would pursue a similar strategy should it fail to reach an agreement with Slimane, and continue with modernist men’s wear, but with an aim to improve profitability and reach a broader customer base.

As reported, the launch of a Hedi Slimane women’s wear line was one subject discussed at the negotiating table this time around. It could not immediately be learned if Dior is interested in underwriting such a venture — or if Slimane might be negotiating with other parties.

Slimane declined all comment. A Dior spokesman had no comment.

Negotiations to renew Slimane’s contract were prickly in 2001, but resulted in the designer adding responsibilities for Dior men’s fragrances and skin care. Dior Dermo System, a minimalist skin care program concocted by Slimane, is slated to arrive on French shelves this fall.

One of men’s wear’s brightest lights, Slimane burst onto the fashion scene in the late Nineties with his sharply tailored, often androgynous designs for Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. He signed on with Dior in 2000 after being courted heavily by Prada Group and Gucci, which had offered him a signature fashion house.

This story first appeared in the June 19, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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