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by Timothy Hagy, Paris editor

PARIS, February 4, 2005 - The fashion world is always unstable, but even seasoned veterans have been rolling their eyes over the unexpected volatility of the past two weeks.  On Monday, January 24, the first day of the Paris haute couture shows, Prada confirmed the resignation of Helmut Lang from his own label, capping weeks of speculation that negotiations over his contract had reached an impasse. The critically acclaimed, but commercially difficult label was at the center of the dispute, with the new owners insisting on increased profitability from the designer. According to published reports, Raf Simons is now in negotiation to take over the artistic direction of the Helmut Lang label.

By the end of men's fashion week, the French daily Le Figaro broke a second story on the departure of Serge Weinberg as CEO of PPR (Pinault Printemps Redoute), the parent company of the Gucci Group. In what was called a theatrical event, an emergency board meeting was held on the afternoon of Wednesday, February 2, when Weinberg's resignation was made official, and François-Henri Pinault, son of French billionaire PPR owner François Pinault was appointed his replacement. The younger Pinault told the Figaro immediately after the announcement: "I want to become more visible in the group and to take direct responsibility for the management." The entire luxury arm of PPR has been laboring under a difficult economic environment which began with the September 11th attacks, and was followed by the SARS crisis, the Iraq War, and now the free falling dollar. The new CEO of Gucci Group, Robert Polet, has announced a plan to reorganize, and has given labels Stella McCartney, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen three years to turn around losses. An even more pressing concern is Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, which has become the luxury group's largest liability, having recorded a loss of 39 million Euros in the first quarter of 2004. Mr. Polet blamed former CEO, Domenico De Sole, and former Artistic Director, Tom Ford, for having expanded the label too rapidly. According to the Fiagro article, "investors have been loosing confidence in the group, little by little."

Then on Friday, February 4, Condé-Nast announced the resignation of Richard Buckley as Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Hommes International. Buckley, who had served in the capacity since 1999, is leaving France for personal reasons. "I wish to thank Richard Buckley for the quality and the creativity of his work during the past 5 years," said Didier Suberbielle, Managing Director of Condé Nast France, in a press release. Bruno Danto will replace Buckley at the helm of the biannual publication that is the little brother of French Vogue.

Buckley, who was seen as recently as Monday evening at the Dior Homme show, will be remembered for his controversial initiatives aimed at bolstering declining subscriptions. Those included the use of gay porn stars from the Bel Ami production company in the Spring/Summer 2001 issue, and topless female models in Fall 2003. Sources close to Buckley have indicated that the editor wished to return to the US to be nearer his longtime companion, Tom Ford.


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