MILAN — The intrigue deepens at the House of Versace.
According to sources here, the Italian fashion company has held discussions to bring on designer Kim Jones, currently men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton.
No contract has been signed and the likelihood of a deal could not immediately be learned. It is understood that the biggest barrier is a contractual one: Last year, the Englishman renewed his employment agreement at Vuitton, which he joined in 2011.
Interviewed on the sidelines of the Versus show in London on Sunday, Versace chief executive officer Jonathan Akeroyd declined all comment. A Vuitton spokeswoman also declined comment, while Jones could not be reached for comment.
Versace’s overtures to Jones follow a failed effort to bring on Riccardo Tisci, who exited Givenchy earlier this year after 12 years at the French house.
Donatella Versace — who has led the design effort since the murder 20 years ago of her brother, founder Gianni Versace — is said to be on board with a plan to bring on new creative talent to assist her in the revitalization of the company.
Her minority partner The Blackstone Group, which took a 20 percent stake in the Italian house in 2014, maintains it has never set out to replace her at the company’s creative helm.
“Blackstone has always supported and will continue to support Donatella Versace as artistic director of Versace. Any other speculation is entirely false,” Andrew Dowler, managing director of Blackstone in London, told WWD in June.
Yet WWD broke the news on Jan. 19 that Versace was eyeing Tisci, who has long expressed his admiration for the work of the late Gianni Versace and cultivated a close friendship with Donatella, whom he invited to pose in a Givenchy ad campaign in 2015. Tisci’s subsequent exit from Givenchy after his men’s show in January further fueled the speculation.
Now the spotlight is trained on Jones.
A globetrotter extraordinaire with a passion for wildlife, Jones has no design experience in women’s wear or couture, but has had a storied fashion career, with John Galliano snapping up his graduate collection from Central Saint Martins.
His own men’s wear label, known for its sporty, streetwear edge, lasted for eight seasons and attracted the attention of Dunhill, where he was creative director from 2008 to 2011, when Vuitton came knocking.
Jones, who tapped Supreme for a collaboration with Vuitton earlier this year, is among leading designers — like Tisci — who can straddle the luxury and streetwear worlds, much like Gianni Versace did in his time.
Whether or not Versace shakes up its creative leadership, the Milan-based company is confident in its strategy and growth potential.
In July, the company said investments in 2016 dented profitability, while sales last year rose 3.7 percent to 668.7 million euros.
“In 2017, sales are expected to grow with a progressive increase in margins in the wake of focused actions on the industrial, commercial and logistics fronts and a rational management of operative costs,” the company said at the time, noting all product categories and channels performed well.
Last year, sales in directly operated stores totaled 418.1 million euros, up 4.4 percent compared with 2015. Wholesale sales represent almost 30 percent of revenues.
In May 2016, Versace went through a management shake-up, bringing in Akeroyd, formerly Alexander McQueen’s ceo, to lead the company.
Versace is also said to be edging toward an initial public offering, with its previous ceo saying in 2015 that the process had started, although there was no time frame set, except for the three- to five-year range first cited in 2014.