Some call it the “three-year curse” – or the amount of time it takes a top-notch, high-profile designer to leave the major luxury brand they are with. Alexander Wang, Raf Simons, and Hedi Slimane have all fallen prey to the supposed curse, and Nicolas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton is now rumored to be joining their ranks. While it seems like some kind of mad coincidence that three years is the demarcation point for a designer’s success or failure, the timeline actually applies to the length of contracts offered to them by the brand’s parent companies. These performance-based contracts demand increased quarterly revenue – and as callous as it sounds – if the designer isn’t performing to expectations, they’re given the boot. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, like Slimane, who was performing spectacularly at Saint Laurent, but who chose not to renew with the brand when his contract expired.
Although Louis Vuitton’s parent company, LVMH, does not reveal concrete sales numbers, it reported strong Q1 sales under Ghesquière in his first year as Creative Director. However, an unexpected slowdown in China due to a stock market crash negatively impacted sales at top luxury brands around the world, and Louis Vuitton suffered alongside them. Despite financial setbacks at LVMH, Ghesquière continued to produce spectacular collections for Louis Vuitton, and renewed focus on the brand’s cornerstone handbags with the debuts of the ‘Petite Malle’, ‘GO-14 PM’, and ‘Twist’. While handbag sales were healthy at Louis Vuitton, rumor has it Ghesquière’s futuristic ready-to-wear was less well-received.
At the end of the day, Ghesquière might be dismissed from his post – not because of any innate failings as a designer, Creative Director, or businessman – but because LVMH’s owner, Bernard Arnault, is hungry for the “new” and “next”. He is said to be quite taken with Jonathan Anderson, the Irish ingenue who currently heads an eponymous label and the Spanish luxury goods brand, Loewe. He has been turning out remarkable collections for Loewe in particular, with strong emphasis on covetable and collectible accessories, which would certainly be regarded as a positive aspect for an accessory-focused brand like Louis Vuitton. Although Louis Vuitton has flat-out denied the rumors that Ghesquière is leaving and that Anderson is waiting in the wings to replace him, we’ve learned that denial is “PR speak” for “how could you break this news before we could announce?” Suffice it to say, there have been some surprises: we didn’t expect Bouchra Jarrar to be named at Lanvin or Maria Grazia Chiuri to land at Dior. However, if Anderson is next in line at Louis Vuitton, his appointment makes sense given the industry’s strong focus on the bottom line.