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PARIS — It seems there were two unofficial swan songs in Paris on Thursday — at Carven and Nina Ricci.

This story first appeared in the September 26, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.


Carven confirmed on Friday that designer Guillaume Henry is to wind up his fruitful five-year collaboration with the brand. According to market sources, he is seen as a front-runner to take up the design helm at Ricci.


WWD broke the story Sept. 12 that Oscar de la Renta is close to signing Nina Ricci’s current creative director, Peter Copping, in a lead design role, triggering another round of musical chairs in French fashion.


Speculation has been percolating for some time that de la Renta was scouting Copping, who has been creative director of Nina Ricci since 2009. The soft-spoken Englishman has built a strong identity for the label, increasingly focused on what his customer wears during the day, proposing sweater dresses, coats and fluid pajama looks, all rendered with romance.


According to market sources, Ricci held talks with a number of buzzy young European talents, including rising London star Simone Rocha.


De la Renta, 82, has been looking for a design collaborator and possible successor for some time — most visibly in 2013, when he hired John Galliano for a three-week designer-in-residence role. Galliano’s influence was very visible in de la Renta’s subsequent fall 2013 collection.


Asked at Ricci’s show on Thursday about possible changes in the house’s design leadership, Ralph Toledano, president of the fashion division at Puig, Ricci’s parent, said: “We don’t comment on rumors.”


At Carven’s spring show earlier in the day, chief executive officer Henri Sebaoun also declined to comment on rumors of Henry’s departure. The brand confirmed the next day that the designer was moving on.


Asked backstage whether he was leaving, Henry said: “I absolutely don’t see any invitation to expand on this, but it’s already an appointment I did not want to share today. We are at Carven, and it’s important.”


The young Frenchman is credited with catapulting Carven back onto the fashion radar, and giving it a youthful élan.


It is understood Carven management is finalizing a design succession plan, eager to continue on its expansion path. The rapidly growing brand recently launched a full-fledged handbag line and plans to open around 10 stores this year.

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