* Ghesquiere joins as sales growth drops at Louis Vuitton
* Will oversee ready-to-wear and fashion accessories
* Appointment is latest in series of leadership changes
By Astrid Wendlandt
PARIS, Nov 4 Designer Nicolas Ghesquiere, who
made his name resuscitating fashion brand Balenciaga, has been
appointed creative director for womenswear at Louis Vuitton, the
world's No.1 luxury brand, parent LVMH said on Monday.
Ghesquiere was seen as the front-runner to replace Marc
Jacobs who announced his departure from Louis Vuitton last month
to focus on developing and floating his eponymous fashion
Ghesquiere will design Louis Vuitton's ready-to-wear and
some of its fashion accessories but will not be involved with
permanent bag collections such as the Neverfull, the Speedy or
the new higher-end series like the Capucines, which cost 3,500
euros ($4,700) apiece.
"Ghesquiere, one of the favourite designers of the most
sophisticated fashion insiders, could positively contribute to
the repositioning of the brand towards more exclusivity," said
Mario Ortelli, luxury goods analyst at brokerage Bernstein.
The appointment follows a series of leadership changes at
Louis Vuitton, LVMH's biggest source of revenue and profit,
aimed at helping the brand regain some of its lost prestige as
sales growth more than halved over the past year.
Last month, Louis Vuitton hired Darren Spaziani, former
Proenza Schouler accessories designer, to beef up its high-end
offering of leather bags.
Earlier this year, Delphine Arnault, daughter of LVMH
founder and chief executive Bernard Arnault, became deputy head
of Louis Vuitton while last year, LVMH veteran Michael Burke
replaced the brand's longstanding chief Yves Carcelle.
Louis Vuitton, the biggest luxury brand with more than 7.3
billion euros in annual sales, has seen sales growth steadily
drop, hit by cooling demand in Asia and consumers' growing
preference for no-logo products.
It has pruned its collection of logo bags, widened its
offering of expensive leather bags and slowed down its store
network expansion to tackle the perception that it is too
ubiquitous. But the transition took its toll on growth.
Last month, Louis Vuitton posted an estimated 2 percent rise
in third-quarter sales year-on-year, much lower than expected,
rekindling worries about how long it would take for it to fight
back and return to higher growth rates which have stood above 10
percent in the past two decades.
Louis Vuitton said Ghesquiere "will bring a modern creative
vision to the House's women's collections." He will present his
first collection in March 2014.
During his 15-year tenure at Balenciaga, Ghesquiere, 42, is
widely credited with having helped turn the fashion label into
one of the fastest-growing and most profitable brands of parent
Kering. Kering, formerly known as PPR, also owns
Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta.
"This is good news, as he is well known to be both creative
and respect the brand DNA, which is just what is needed," said
Luca Solca, luxury goods analyst at Exane BNP Paribas.
Concerns about Louis Vuitton's future growth have weighed on
the valuation of parent LVMH, which has been one of the worst
performers of the luxury goods industry.
LVMH shares have risen just under 2 percent since Jan. 1,
while the European luxury goods sector gained more than 25
($1 = 0.7414 euros)
(Editing by James Regan and Sonya Hepinstall)