PARIS — Marc might not be moving to Dior after all.
This story first appeared in the November 11, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
According to sources, the French fashion house’s talks with Marc Jacobs have come to a halt, and Dior has quietly stepped up the pace and depth of negotiations with other designers.
It is understood Alexander Wang, Raf Simons and Jason Wu are among some of the candidates recently approached, with Riccardo Tisci still in the mix but viewed as an unlikely appointment, given his strong momentum as Givenchy’s couturier.
WWD first reported Dior was in talks with Jacobs on Aug. 22.
The artistic director at Louis Vuitton since 1997, Jacobs has been vocal about the fact that he wished to take his Vuitton design team along with him should he move to Dior, a sister company of Vuitton parent LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
That was a complicated scenario that would have left Vuitton, the luxury group’s cash-cow brand, without a key creative engine. Although ready-to-wear is not a linchpin category for the leather goods powerhouse, Jacobs has brought fashion excitement and buzz galore to the brand, along with blockbuster collaborations with artists including Stephen Sprouse and Takashi Murakami.
Further complicating matters is that Phoebe Philo, the preferred candidate of LVMH kingpin Bernard Arnault to take over Vuitton should Jacobs shift to Dior, is said to have been cool to that scenario, preferring to continue her minimalist makeover of the Céline fashion house, which — like Givenchy — is part of Arnault’s sprawling luxury empire.
Jacobs has been vocal about the fact that he is happy at Vuitton, yet honored to be considered for Dior, without a couturier since the March ouster of John Galliano for racist and anti-Semitic outbursts.
One source cautioned, “It is not impossible that [Arnault] resumes his talks with Marc.” Indeed, last month, the luxury goods executive is said to have jumped on his private jet and flown to Manhattan to meet with Jacobs.
The last talks with Jacobs remained cordial, with no explosive breakdown, according to a Paris source. But Arnault and Dior recently decided to move onto another scenario.
The search is said to be focused on finding a designer — whether young or mature — with a strong affinity and respect for the brand’s glamorous DNA, and a vision for taking it forward in the post-Galliano era.
Officials at Dior and Jacobs’ New York-based company could not be reached for comment at press time on Thursday.
Dior has always said it was in no hurry to name a successor to Galliano, a maverick talent who transformed the house with his epic, romantic inspirations and spine-tingling showmanship.
Since Galliano’s exit, the design leadership has fallen on the shoulders of studio director Bill Gaytten, a longtime Galliano associate who is also piloting the creative department at the John Galliano brand.
The press pilloried Gaytten and first assistant Susanna Venegas for their first couture outing in July, while reviews for the spring rtw were largely more positive. It is understood Gaytten will take the bow for Dior come Paris couture week in Janaury.
Meanwhile, Dior has continued to show strong business momentum as its upscaling drive gains traction and iconic products like Lady Dior handbags continue to sell. Suggesting brands are more potent than the famous designers behind them, revenues at the Dior fashion house jumped 17.6 percent in the third quarter to 260 million euros, or $368 million, as reported. At the time, the company trumpeted momentum across geographies and product lines, “notably ready-to-wear, leather goods and watches.”
The search for Galliano’s successor has been one of the most closely watched — and protracted — sagas in recent memory.
Dior has considered a wide swath of potential candidates, including Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz, Balenciaga’s Nicolas Ghesquière, Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton, Haider Ackermann and Hedi Slimane. According to sources, Elbaz and Ghesquière, both of whom have equity stakes in their fashion houses and strong personal commitments to their brands, withdrew themselves from the running. Burton is said to have rebuffed overtures. Tight contracts with their respective houses also may have limited many of the designers’ ability to jump to Dior.
Tisci, meanwhile, has earned a cult following for his darkly romantic, Goth-inflected approach to fashion, and has been championed by Delphine Arnault.
Jacobs was said to be in the studio Thursday with Steven Meisel shooting the spring fashion campaign for Vuitton, again using a cast of young models.
Arnault has often waxed poetic about the importance of matching a designer’s talent with a brand’s essence. “Had I hired Marc Jacobs for Dior and John Galliano for Louis Vuitton, it would not have worked as well for both brands, even though both designers are geniuses of their own,” he told WWD in 2003.