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PARIS (Reuters) - French fashion brand Yves Saint Laurent is parting ways with its head designer Stefano Pilati, parent group PPR said on Monday, with his replacement to be announced after his last fashion show on March 5.
Pilati, who had been the creative head of the fashion house for the past seven years, is expected to be replaced by Hedi Slimane, ex-head of design at Dior menswear, French news agency Agence France Presse reported on Saturday citing sources close to the matter.
Pilati was already rumored to be on his way out last autumn and replaced by Raf Simons, Jil Sander's designer, prompting YSL to issue a statement in September denying Pilati was leaving.
Under Pilati's stewardship and designs, particularly in high-margin leather goods, YSL returned to profitability in 2008 but was hit hard by the downturn of 2009.
Pilati has "been instrumental in the rebuilding and repositioning of an iconic French luxury brand," YSL said in a statement.
The brand's sales rose more than 31 percent last year to 353.7 million euros, above many close peers such as Hermes and Lanvin, helping operating profit swell more than fourfold to 41 million euros.
If Slimane is confirmed creative director of YSL, it would mark a comeback for the designer who used to head the French brand's menswear between 1997 and 2000 before it was acquired by PPR.
Slimane, 43, was designer at Christian Dior menswear between 2001 and 2007, making a name for himself with skinny cuts. In recent years he has devoted time to photography, publishing a retrospective book last year called "Anthology of a Decade."
Jil Sander said on Thursday that Belgian Simons would leave the fashion house at the end of February. On Friday, the brand's German eponymous founder confirmed that she was returning to the label she created 40 years ago.
The news reignited speculation that Simons could be on his way to joining France's Christian Dior, which has yet to announce a replacement for John Galliano more than a year after his departure. Dior parent LVMH on Thursday declined to comment about a possible announcement regarding Galliano's replacement.
Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; Editing by James Regan and Elena Berton