Chloé Taps Former Saint Laurent Deputy Amid Potential Designer Shakeup

PARIS — Chloé has hired Chemena Kamali to lead a parallel design studio as creative director Gabriela Hearst is expected to exit the Paris-based brand, market sources said.

Kamali, who was previously design director for women’s ready-to-wear at Saint Laurent under Anthony Vaccarello, is designing products for Chloé’s pipeline as next steps for the brand after Hearst’s September show remain unclear.

Hearst, who joined Richemont-owned Chloé in late 2020, had previously enjoyed the support of the Swiss group’s chairman, Johann Rupert, but tensions have mounted as Chloé’s business struggled to keep up with rivals during a post-pandemic surge for many luxury brands. Under Hearst, Chloé has enjoyed momentum selling logo totes, rubber rainboots and knit sneakers, but increasingly struggled to sell the $2,000-plus leather bags that used to anchor its business, according to market sources. (Richemont does not break out sales for individual brands).

On the runway, Hearst’s collections resonated most when taking a craft-inflected bent, including a collaboration with Alabama’s Gee’s Bend quilters for fall-winter 2022. Natural fibres worked into intricate braided, embroidered and fringed pieces aligned with the designer’s environmentally-friendly, socially-responsible message, but often pushed up prices in stores beyond what the brand’s consumer clout could support at scale.

Several sources familiar with the matter said they anticipate Hearst’s September show will be her last.

At a June meeting with staff, however, Chloé CEO Riccardo Bellini insisted no final decision had been taken on Hearst’s future with the brand, though the chief executive confirmed to teams the existence of the parallel studio.

Whether Kamali has been tapped as a consultant or is being onboarded for a long-term role remains unconfirmed. Kamali held an instrumental role supporting Vaccarello during a historic expansion of Kering’s Saint Laurent brand starting in 2016. After initially maintaining momentum by mostly sticking to former designer Hedi Slimane’s template of black-and-white branding and ultra-archival styling, a spate of cinematic, colourful collections with a reinforced daywear offer allowed Vacarello to make his mark on the brand and drive increased fashion buzz.

Kamali joined American label Frame earlier this year with a mission to sharpen the brand’s fashion image. But sources say Kamali and associates quickly returned to Paris to pursue another opportunity.

A Chloé spokesperson declined to comment.

Additional reporting by Vikram Alexei Kansara

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