Mwah! Meet the heir to the world's biggest fashion firm

 

Bernard Arnault, the billionaire at the helm of the world's biggest luxury goods company, LVMH, yesterday gave the clearest signal yet that he is grooming his daughter Delphine to succeed him when he retires.

France's richest man, Mr Arnault, 64, has elevated her to one of the top executive positions at the group's flagship brand, Louis Vuitton, beloved by the jetset for its haute couture and monogrammed luggage. The move sees her far advanced on the runway to becoming the most powerful woman in global fashion

Delphine, 37, has worked across many of LVMH's major divisions, from Celine and Emilio Pucci to Loewe, learning the tricks of the trade, although it remains to be seen whether she has the sharp-clawed ruthlessness of her father that has earned him the nickname of The Wolf in Cashmere.

However, her time at Dior was eventful: she was in the top management team that had to take the decision to axe its drug-addicted designer John Galliano (pictured) in 2011 after he was arrested for his drunken, anti-Semitic rants in a Paris restaurant. She is also credited with being the champion of Mr Galliano's successor, Raf Simons, the Belgian designer.

Recently returned from maternity leave, Delphine will become Louis Vuitton's executive vice-president, replacing Pietro Beccari, who quit for rival designer Fendi. She will report to Louis Vuitton's chief executive, Michael Burke.

Mr Burke said: "Her intimate knowledge of the universe of our high-quality products and her experience at the helm of one of the most prestigious houses in the group are key assets to contribute to the successful development of Louis Vuitton."

She joins the brand amid fevered speculation among fashionistas that the creative director, Marc Jacobs, could be planning to leave. He had been linked in speculation with the creative position at Coach, although that post was taken yesterday by the British creative director of Loewe, Stuart Vevers.

The succession of Mr Arnault's dynasty is said to weigh heavily on him. Delphine's younger brother Antoine, also from Mr Arnault's first marriage, is chief executive of LVMH's menswear brand Berluti, but he is not seen as chief executive material.

Mr Arnault courted controversy earlier this year when he considered moving to Belgium, thought to be for inheritance tax reasons.

The wolf cub: Delphine Arnault

Delphine Arnault is the eldest child of Bernard from his first marriage.

She grew up mostly in Lille, but spent three years in the US when the family moved to New York state. After studying at one of France's best business schools, EDHEC, and the London School of Economics, she worked at the management consulting group McKinsey.

Next was her first role at the family firm, working with John Galliano on his own label, a partnership the pair would reprise years later when she worked with him at Dior. An avid art collector, she now lives in Paris. After divorcing the Italian wine heir Alessandro Vallarino Gancia in 2010, she is in a new relationship, but tries to keep her private life secret.

Widely respected in the luxury goods business as hard-working, she gave birth to her first child last August.

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