Christian Dior, the luxury fashion goods company, announced yesterday that it had replaced Hedi Slimane, its men’s wear designer, whose razor-thin suits helped revitalize the image of the house and ushered in a new era of fashion-conscious male consumers.
In a statement that made no mention of Mr. Slimane, Dior said that the relatively unknown Kris Van Assche, 30, would become artistic director for men’s ready-to-wear and accessories. Mr. Van Assche was a former assistant to Mr. Slimane at Dior and at Yves Saint Laurent, where Mr. Slimane designed men’s wear until the Gucci Group acquired the Saint Laurent brand in 1999.
Mr. Slimane, the designer of Dior Homme since 2000, had been involved in contract negotiations since last July and had made no secret of his ambitions to exact greater creative control at Dior and design women’s collections under his own name.
After an extended impasse, Bernard Arnault, the chairman of Christian Dior and the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, began talking to potential successors. A spokesman for LVMH confirmed that Mr. Slimane was being replaced but declined to comment.
Mr. Van Assche designs clothes with a similar aesthetic but has less name recognition than Mr. Slimane, whose trim suits and skinny jeans became the subject of a song by Keys to the Streets of Fear, a Boston rock band.
“Of the many brands that have tried to create a presence in men’s wear, Dior became very strong, whereas some other French houses have not succeeded,” said Michael Macko, the vice president for men’s fashion at Saks Fifth Avenue. “Hedi has been a huge part of that.”
Although Mr. Slimane’s importance at Dior was considerable — Women’s Wear Daily estimated that 10 percent of its $918 million in sales came from men’s wear — the news of his replacement, after months of rumors, is likely to have little impact on the cultlike popularity of Dior Homme.
Many customers were already aware of Mr. Van Assche’s work because of his connection to Mr. Slimane, said Mr. Macko, who noted that some signature Dior elements, like dropped stitches that look like runs, or tears, on sweaters, were attributable to Mr. Van Assche.
“This wasn’t standing-room gossip or even third-row gossip,” Mr. Macko said of the Slimane exit. “This was front-row gossip at the shows in January.”