Unless you became a Louis Vuitton collector literally decades ago, you probably can’t imagine the brand without Marc Jacobs, Vuitton’s creative director of 16 years, who revolutionized the brand’s handbag business, started an industry-wide trend of artist collaborations and positioned the company firmly at the nexus of fashion and pop culture. Yesterday morning, though, Fashionista reported that industry rumors and its own anonymous sources indicate that Jacobs’ long tenure as head of the brand may be coming to an end when his contract runs out in 2014.
Vuitton and Jacobs are currently still in negotiations to renew the contract, and if Jacobs left, it would be of his own volition. After all, he’s presided over a decade and a half of record sales and profits for the leather goods company, and despite LVMH’s recent desire to take Vuitton in a direction that’s more appealing to the highest end of the market, the brand seems to be comfortable with the idea that Jacobs is still the man for the job. He may have other ideas, though, and in his absence, rumors indicate former Balenciaga chief Nicolas Ghesquiere might be the heir to the throne at the world’s most important luxury brand.
Jacobs recently appointed two high-profile names, Kate Hillier and Luella Bartley, to revamp his Marc by Marc Jacobs brand, admitting that it had fallen behind the burgeoning contemporary market. With the pressure of overseeing four full collections a year for three distinct brands, perhaps Jacobs thinks its time to scale back his responsibilities and focus on the lines that bear his name. In recent years, the Marc Jacobs brand has also fallen behind some of its competitors, especially in the uber-profitable accessories and shoe businesses, even though Jacobs’ shows are still among the most influential in the world. It’s been since the Stam Bag, in the mid-2000s, that Jacobs’ flare for accessories brought his own brand an overwhelming hit.
Although all of this is just gossip, it makes a certain amount of sense, considering the timing and strategies of all the brands and designers involved. The only real question I see involves Ghesquiere; although his motorcycle bags sold well at Balenciaga, his designs, no matter how beloved by fashion people, were generally not retail gold. For a company like Vuitton, that just won’t fly, even though he is unquestionably the most gifted free agent on the design market right now. With the devoted Vuitton fanbase and Ghesquiere’s artistic talent, though, commerce might not prove to be a problem, should these rumors turn into reality.
If you’re a fan of Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs or Nicolas Ghesquiere (which might be all of you, actually), let us known your thoughts on these prospective moves in the comments!