* Menswear designer Kim Jones leaving Louis Vuitton
* Unclear where Jones is heading amid industry changes
* Has been linked to Versace, vacancy at Burberry
PARIS, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Louis Vuitton’s menswear designer, Kim Jones, is leaving after seven years with LVMH’s biggest fashion label, the company said on Wednesday, with speculation as to his next move already underway.
Jones’ exit comes amid a recent merry-go-round of artistic directors at the world’s biggest fashion groups, as some seek to breathe new life into brands with star hires or eye-catching new designs.
Louis Vuitton did not give any reasons for Jones’ departure.
“His ability to set trends is impeccable,” Louis Vuitton Chairman and CEO Michael Burke said of the British designer, who is credited with boosting the brand by giving its menswear collections a streetwear edge.
“All of us who have been fortunate to work with Kim wish him continued success in his next venture,” he added.
Jones helped develop a hit collaboration in 2017 between Vuitton and skatewear brand Supreme on a collection of branded hoodies, bags and other goods. He has already been linked with several other labels.
Fashion industry news site WWD reported last September that Jones had held discussions with Italy’s Versace. Britain’s Burberry, meanwhile, is looking for a replacement for outgoing artistic director Christopher Bailey, though the new designer would be at the helm of womenswear too.
Burberry, which posted a 2 percent drop in retail revenue over the Christmas period on Wednesday, said it was not commenting on speculation as it carries out its search, while Versace declined to comment.
In the notoriously fickle world of fashion, design changes have helped boost some brands more than others in recent years at a time when luxury goods makers are trying to win over younger consumers and tap into a revival in Chinese demand.
Under a new CEO-designer pairing at Kering-owned Gucci, revenue growth has outstripped that of peers in recent quarters after the Italian fashion house reivented itself with a rococo new look.
Jones will present his last menswear collection for Vuitton on Thursday, during the men’s fall/winter fashion week in Paris, which runs until Jan. 21.
LVMH does not break out sales for its brands, but Vuitton is the main driver behind its fashion and leather goods division, which reported a 13 percent rise in like-for-like sales in the third quarter from a year earlier. Balenciaga alumnus Nicolas Ghesquiere is Vuitton’s creative director for womenswear. (Reporting by Sarah White, Additional reporting by Giulia Segreti in Milan; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)