Vuitton Names Ghesquiere Artistic Director, Replacing Jacobs

Louis Vuitton appointed former Balenciaga designer Nicholas Ghesquiere as artistic director of womenswear, succeeding Marc Jacobs, and said he will “infuse” the world’s largest luxury brand with modernity.

Ghesquiere, who left Balenciaga in November 2012 after 15 years with the Kering SA-owned brand, starts immediately, a spokesman for Paris-based parent company LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA said today by phone. The Frenchman will present his first collection in March, according to the company.

Ghesquiere, 42, joins Vuitton at a time when the brand’s growth is slowing. In April, LVMH posted its weakest increase in fashion and leather-goods sales since 2009. The designer’s appointment comes two months after Delphine Arnault, the daughter of LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault, joined Vuitton as executive vice president, assigned to oversee all product-related activities and help restore Vuitton’s appeal.

“This is a promising appointment,” said Luca Solca, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas in London, citing Ghesquiere’s ability to introduce innovative ideas while respecting the “DNA” of a brand. “I also believe he may be very motivated to prove himself” at Vuitton.

LVMH rose 0.5 percent to 141.85 euros at the close in Paris. The stock has gained 2.2 percent this year, valuing the company at 72.1 billion euros ($97.4 billion).

Avant-Garde Designs

At Balenciaga, which Ghesquiere joined in 1997, the designer won critical acclaim for his avant-garde designs such as scuba-diving inspired dresses, slim-line pants and Lariat bags, which helped restore the 99-year-old brand’s luster and spur sales. He was succeeded there by Alexander Wang.

Ghesquiere “will infuse the women’s collections with the modernity of his creative vision,” while relying on Vuitton’s values of refinement, savoir faire and extreme quality, the LVMH division said in a statement.

“I’m eager to join the teams,” Ghesquiere said in the statement. “We will build together the future of the brand while maintaining its prestigious heritage.”

Jacobs stepped down from Vuitton in September after 16 years as artistic director to focus on an initial public offering of his own brand, a person familiar with the matter said at the time. LVMH, which controls the Marc Jacobs label, wants to accelerate the development of the business, which has annual sales of about $1 billion, and may pursue an IPO in about three years, according to the person.

The management reshuffle is a double boost for LVMH, allowing Jacobs to focus solely on the growth of his label while letting Ghesquiere work to inspire a revival at Vuitton, according to Solca. Vuitton accounts for more than half of LVMH’s earnings and has sales exceeding 7 billion euros, Solca estimates.

“Being the LV creative director is like being the pilot of a Ferrari,” Solca said. “Things can still go wrong, but you start from a very good place.”

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