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Hermés’ New Jockey: Luxury Group Hands RTW Reins to Gaultier

Hermès International tapped Jean Paul Gaultier to replace Martin Margiela as designer of its women’s ready-to-wear.

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In a statement, Margiela congratulated Gaultier on his appointment and wished “the Maison Hermès and all of its management and team every success and good fortune in the future. Maison Martin Margiela and Mr. Margiela are more than happy with their collaboration over the past six years.”

While declining to give projections, Dumas made it clear he sees more opportunities to grow the Hermès fashion business within its network of some 216 stores. He said new locations like the Ginza flagship in Tokyo devote considerable space to apparel, and many units are being expanded and renovated to that end, as well.

Dumas noted that Gaultier would design only women’s rtw at Hermès. Men’s wear will continue to be designed “by our star Veronique Nichanian” while other categories, from silk and leather goods to watches, are presided over by separate design teams.

Hermès has a long history of designers who have worked incognito. Before Margiela joined Hermès in 1998, the rtw team included Marc Audibet, who went on to design for Salvatore Ferragamo; Michel and Olivier Chatenet, the team behind E2, and Thomas Maier, now creative director of the Gucci Group-owned Bottega Veneta.

The appointment of Gaultier at Hermès should end rumors over the past three years that Hermès had been courting Jil Sander as its new designer. It also underlines a trend toward putting more established designers at the helm, rather than untested young talents. Last year, for example, luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton installed one of its star couturiers, 52-year-old Christian Lacroix, to reinvigorate the Italian house of Emilio Pucci.

Dumas stressed that Gaultier’s appointment would not change Hermès’ involvement in the Gaultier business. “We are very happy in our position,” he said. “We meet regularly and the company is developing.”

When Gaultier welcomed the Hermès investment four years ago, company principles said the funds would be used to build its retail network. Since then, Gaultier has opened flagships in New York, London and Paris, designed by design guru Philippe Starck. Most of Gaultier’s business is licensed, including rtw, produced by Aeffe. The brand generates annual retail volume estimated at $350 million.
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