By Astrid Wendlandt
PARIS (Reuters) - Hedi Slimane is stepping down as creative director of fashion brand Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) after four years in the job, parent luxury goods group Kering said on Friday.
Kering, which gave no reason for Slimane's departure and did not say if he would receive a payoff, said a new creative organisation would be announced for the brand in due course. Some fashion industry observers said fashion designer Anthony Vaccarello could step into Slimane's shoes.
Slimane's departure creates uncertainty about the future of what has become the fastest-growing brand within the group. When he arrived in 2012, he stamped his identity on the brand and turned it into a grungey, rock-chic label that found favour among wealthy fashion-conscious buyers.
Known for controlling everything from the brand's advertising campaigns that he shot himself to the content, look and feel of its website, Slimane had renamed the label Saint Laurent, but Kering referred to the brand as Yves Saint Laurent in its statement on Friday.
Slimane helped more than double YSL's sales to 974 million euros ($1.1 billion), making it one of only a few fashion brands to have achieved revenue around the $1 billion mark, along with Qatari-controlled Valentino.
Analysts estimate YSL will contribute around 12 percent of Kering's operating profit growth over the next three years.
Citi analysts said YSL's strong sales growth "was partly driven by the favourable halo effect from a star designer like Hedi Slimane", as well as a successful transition into leather goods. They also noted its operating margin had reached a record 20 percent in the second half of 2015.
"We expect Kering management to have a credible contingency plan and be in a position to announce his successor soon," the Citi analysts said.
Kering shares were down 2.4 percent by 0829 GMT. The French blue-chip CAC 40 index was 1.6 percent weaker.
YSL sits alongside sister brand Gucci, which generates more than half of group operating profit. Kering also owns Balenciaga, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, and controls sports brand Puma.
Slimane's departure comes as Christian Dior is still looking for a replacement after the unexpected departure of Raf Simons last autumn. Lanvin, meanwhile, just appointed Bouchra Jarrar to replace Alber Elbaz, who was abruptly sacked in October.
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(Editing by James Regan and David Holmes)