Christophe Decarnin, the French designer whose sexy rocker pagoda-shouldered jackets and tiny minidresses turned Paris' once-floundering Paris house of Balmain into one of the world's hottest labels, is leaving, the fashion house said Wednesday.
Speculation about Decarnin has swirled since the notoriously shy designer failed to appear for a bow after his fall-winter 2011-12 ready-to-wear show last month. It was rumored he'd had a nervous breakdown and was in a mental hospital, but a spokesman for the house dismissed the speculation, saying Decarnin missed the show because he was resting on doctor's orders.
Wednesday's brief statement from Balmain didn't provide any details about the reasons for Decarnin's departure, nor did it name his replacement.
Praise for the departing designer was kept to a minimum.
"Decarnin contributed, along with the studio, to the success of these past years," Balmain CEO Alain Hivelin is quoted as saying.
Founded by Pierre Balmain in 1945, the label was among the vanguards of postwar Paris fashion, along with houses founded by Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga. Like his cross-town rivals, Balmain became a favorite of royalty _ of both the European and Hollywood variety, including Marlene Dietrich.
The founder's death in 1982 ushered in a slow decline, which culminated with the label's 2003 filing for bankruptcy protection. It hired and fired a series of designers before settling two years later on Decarnin, a then 42-year-old who cut his teeth at Paco Rabanne. He was named artistic director in 2007, the statement said.
Decarnin soon found his footing, sending out sexed up, rock-infused pagoda shouldered jackets and sequin-covered mini-dresses with sky-high price tags that completely reversed the label's fortunes, transforming Balmain into a must-have label for the global glitterati.
Critics chastised Decarnin for sending out the same looks season after season, but that didn't seem to bother the legions of fans who eagerly shelled out thousands of dollars for hole-riddled t-shirts or upward of $10,000 for dresses so short they could be confused with old-time bathing costumes.
Wednesday's statement did not say what Decarnin's future plans were.
These are turbulent times for Paris fashion, with last month's sacking of disgraced Dior designer John Galliano, abruptly dismissed amid a scandal over a video in which he's heard to praise Adolf Hitler.
Louis Vuitton also announced last month that it had parted with its menswear designer, Paul Helbers, who was replaced immediately by Kim Jones, formerly of Dunhill.
The March ready-to-wear displays were the last for Dai Fujiwara, creative director of Japan-based label Issey Miyake, which shows in Paris. His replacement is to be appointed this month, the label has said.