Reports have emerged that Clare Waight-Keller will not renew her contract as chief designer at Chloé in March and is set to be replaced by second in command at Louis Vuitton, Natacha Ramsay-Levi. The move could trigger further changes at the top of the large luxury houses.
According to Reuters, British-born Waight-Keller has been commuting between Paris and London since June last year, when she moved back to the British capital, and the mother of three no longer wished to do so. She replaced Hannah McGibbon as creative director of the Richemont-owned brand in May 2011 and has enjoyed critical and commercial success for her designs, which played well with brand’s romantic aesthetic. She also brought the design of second line See by Chloé in-house during her tenure.
Ramsay-Levi’s departure from Louis Vuitton has prompted fresh speculation that its chief designer Nicolas Ghesquière may also be moving on. Ghesquière had made his name at Balenciaga (where he was replaced by Alexander Wang who has since left and been replaced by Demna Gvasalia) before joining Louis Vuitton in 2013.
He has made it known that he would like to establish his own label but has given no further details and sources have suggested he would not be renewing his contract with the LVMH flagship brand before it comes up for renewal next year.
If his imminent departure proves true and yet another one of fashion’s top jobs comes up for grabs, it may spark yet more moves across the industry. In the past year Dior, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein and Valentino (to name a few) have all changed their chief designers (in the case of Valentino a double act of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli was reduced to one as Chiuri went to Dior to replace Raf Simons who is now at Calvin Klein).
It could also ignite some major changes in aesthetic. Ramsay-Levi has a much harder edged approach to design than Waight-Keller’s feminine designs, which have been such a hit with Chloé customers. However industry sources believe this could be no bad thing citing the success of Hedi Slimane at Yves Saint Laurent and Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga who both introduced bold new looks to the houses and, while not always enjoying critical success, have increased sales. That said, of course, commercial success didn’t stop Slimane from departing Kering’s YSL to be replaced by Versus Versace’s Anthony Vaccarello.
Of further interest will be to see what Waight-Keller does next. Having one of the world’s most experienced creative directors in London and available may prompt some British-based brands to make an approach.