Lars Nilsson Fired In Blass Bombshell; Vollbracht in Wings?

Lars Nilsson was dumped as designer of Bill Blass Wednesday, but the firm might already have a successor in the wings: designer Michael Vollbracht.

Ironically,Nilsson came to the job of creative director when Slowik,who had hired him as his assistant,was terminated after a poorly received collection failed to spark the interest of stores or editors. Slowik,who won a heated race to take on the Blass mantle following the announcement of Blass ’retirement in November 2000,has been working with Texas designer Susan Dell for the past three seasons.

Nilsson had spent the previous year as design director for the women ’s collection at Polo Ralph Lauren.Prior to that,he was director of the couture studio for John Galliano at Christian Dior and was Christian Lacroix ’s personal assistant for nine years prior to that,building a strong network of relationships throughout the Paris couture and ready-to-wear industries.Braillard was recruited to Blass from Vera Wang later that year.

“There was a lot of personality involved in the company,”Nilsson said. “There always is.But I wanted to make this happen on a professional level as a team because that was what was important for the company.I think Michael ’s vision is very far from what Mr.Blass ’ vision was.But it’s so hard for anyone starting out today.You have to push out a collection and be a success within six months.It ’s tough,but I still love it.”

Slowik ’s departure in 2001 left Nilsson with just a few weeks to present his first fall collection,which was fairly well received by retailers and the press. Since then,his collections have received mixed reviews,but to a large extent his line has gotten strong marks from stores such as Saks ifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman during the trunk show circuit.

Nilsson and Braillard had an easy working relationship together,but also conveyed that personable touch with customers.During the New York Botanical Garden ’s winter benefit,sponsored by Bill Blass,Braillard,known throughout the industry simply as Hervé Pierre,took a turn on the dance floor with nearly every young socialite in the room — Natalie Leeds,ernanda Niven,Hilary Dick,Tory Burch,Marjorie Gubelmann and Ashley McDermott among them.

The designers met 15 years ago as students at Le Chambre Syndicale in Paris and worked separately at a number of different houses in Europe before making their separate ways to New York. Hervé Pierre had worked for Balmain, but was overlooked for top design duties there when the company hired Oscar de la Renta.He didn ’t bear a grudge,as de la Renta set him up in New York with a job designing for his ready-to-wear collection prior to his stint at Wang.
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