Givenchy slips off the catwalk as hunt for designer goes on

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The Independent Online

It was the favoured fashion house of Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy. But having secured its fame and status in Breakfast at Tiffany's and at the White House, Givenchy has run into trouble.

It was the favoured fashion house of Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy. But having secured its fame and status in Breakfast at Tiffany's and at the White House, Givenchy has run into trouble.

The fashion house famed for restrained elegance, last week failed for the first time in 53 years to show a haute couture collection at spring fashion week in Paris. Its problem? It doesn't have a designer.

Having spent 10 months trying to recruit a big name, the house has decided that its ready-to-wear collection for the autumn - due to be shown in March - will instead be put together by a team of unnamed studio assistants. One can almost hear the gasps around the catwalk.

Industry experts say the vacuum highlights a growing perception among trendy, young designers that working for a global corporation may not be the most effective way to display one's creative talents.

Derek Lam, the US designer who dressed Barbara Bush, the US President's dark-haired daughter, on inauguration day, was one of many to have spoken with Givenchy about taking on the job of designer before turning it down.

"There have been so many revolving doors at different brands where they put designers in too quickly," he told The New York Times. "When you see such quick changes, it raises a question about the product losing its continuity or its heritage."

The last three designers at Givenchy, founded by the legendary Hubert de Givenchy, have all been British - John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and the less-than-brilliantly received Julien Macdonald (pictured below).

It is thought that Givenchy, which was sold in 1988 to the global luxury goods conglomerate Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), has recently been talking to two other British designers, Roland Mouret and Sophia Kokosalaki, about taking over as lead designer. Mr Mouret reportedly spent two days at the company's headquarters in Paris last month but has declined to comment on the discussions.

The problems at Givenchy come as many other fashion houses are worrying about the future. Of Yves Saint Laurent, Versace, Valentino and Chanel, only the last is thought to be currently making a profit. LVMH has already sold off Christian Lacroix, another loss-making brand, to US duty-free retailers for a "symbolic" price.

But other observers say Givenchy's problems should not be overstated. Givenchy's sales, said to be worth between $30m (£17m) and $90m, are only a tiny portion of LVMH's overall revenue of more than $16bn. Its other brands, including Vuitton and Dior, are considered much more important.

The company insists its difficulties in finding a suitable designer is not a major concern. Concetta Lanciaux, who is in charge of recruitment, said a replacement could be named within two months.

"We have quite a few people who want to work for the company. The house of Givenchy will not fall apart because there is not a designer. There is a very good team in place," she said. "It has been a very thorough recruitment process to get all the things in place. It proves the company does not want to rush."

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