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2009 August 20

Jean Paul Gaultier Said to be Leaving Hermès

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Jean Paul Gaultier on the runway Jean Paul Gaultier on the runway
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(NEW YORK) Change is brewing at Hermès, and it's starting with Jean Paul Gaultier. The designer is said to be resigning from the company; his last collection for the house is due to bow in Paris this October. In addition to producing his eponymous collections of ready-to-wear and haute couture, Gaultier has spent the last six years as Hermès' creative director following Martin Margiela's resignation in early 2003. An Hermès spokesperson did not return requests for comment.

Gaultier's accomplished tenure at Hermès has been governed by critical runway acclaim and tremendous profitability, cementing the brand's enviable status as one of the most recession-proof luxury houses. In July, the company released exceptionally positive earnings reports, announcing a 12% increase in second-quarter sales ($607.4 million at current exchange) in the 3 months ending June 30. Leather goods were up 33.4%; ready-to-wear and fashion increased by 12.7%.

Hermès' courtship of Gaultier began in June 1999, when the brand invested $23 million into the designer's eponymous collection for a 35% stake. "I believe," said Hermès' then-CEO Jean-Louis Dumas at the time, "that Gaultier has the capacity to be what Hermès has become."

Gaultier began his career in 1970 with an after-school job at Pierre Cardin, and in 1978, he received financial backing to launch his own line. Gaultier has worked extensively with Hollywood and its starlets, from outfitting Madonna in her 1990 "Blonde Ambition" tour to dressing Marion Cotillard in a pailette-encrusted white gown for the 2008 Oscars, where she took home the Best Actress statue for La Vie en Rose. Revered as one of Paris' best-loved couturiers whose audiences are quite literally (and consistently) packed to the rafters, Gaultier remains ardently beloved by the fashion press and his loyal clientele. He is also widely admired for his business acumen, especially with regards to fragrance. Most recently, Mickey Rourke and Kylie Minogue attended his universally-lauded show in July.

"Contemporary fashion is melodrama, and Mr. Gaultier saw that parallel and exploited it beautifully," wrote Cathy Horyn of The New York Times. "As the models came out in wafting mousseline gowns and velvet columns, headshots of screen legends—Mae West, Louise Brooks, Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth—swam across the celestial blue backdrop. I half expected, or hoped, that Mr. Gaultier’s mug would pop up, too."
ASHLEY BAKER




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