With rumors flying that Marc Jacobs is about to take the helm at Christian Dior, here's an in-depth look at the designer's often-tumultuous relationship with his boss Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH (the parent company of both Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, where Jacobs is currently Artistic Director). While Jacobs has often made digs at his boss in the press, their relationship appears to have softened in recent years.
Marc Jacobs and Bernard Arnault: A Timeline
By Leah Bourne
1990: Bernard Arnault seizes control of the LVMH empire in a hostile takeover.
1996: Arnault begins talks with Marc Jacobs, trying to match him with one of the fashion houses within LVMH. During the '90s, Arnault also placed Alexander McQueen at Givenchy, John Galliano at Dior and Narciso Rodriguez at Loewe.
1997: Marc Jacobs and his longtime business partner Robert Duffy sign on as Artistic Director and Studio Director, respectively, of Louis Vuitton. Arnault hires Jacobs to not only revive the centuries-old leather business, but to launch the first-ever line of clothing for the label. He also makes a $140,000 investment in Jacobs’ namesake label. (Today, LVMH owns 96 percent of Marc Jacobs International, the holding company and one-third a stake in the trademark.) It is rumored that Vogue editor Anna Wintour played a large role in the placement of Jacobs at the label. Arnault later tells WSJ. in 2011: "She pointed us towards unexpected choices, I speak very openly to her, and this was quite audacious -- it was not about picking the big names of the moment.”
2001: Jacobs renews his contract with LVMH for an additional five years.
2004: Jacobs tells the Wall Street Journal, "I think Gucci treated Tom Ford better than LVMH has treated me." The same year, Duffy and Jacobs renew their contract with LVMH after a year of negotiations. A sticking point of the negotiations was the duos' personal salaries, which were both under a million dollars at the time, and the investment LVMH was making in Jacobs' signature line. After signing the deal, Jacobs tells WWD: "I'm not a controlling or director-like person. I'm good at participating in a group. I'm good at making things and I love working with Vuitton, but at a certain point, I got tired of this image of us with a tin cup in our hands, saying, 'Please sir, can I have some more?' That whole Oliver Twist routine was getting so tired."
2007: Jacobs tells New York Magazine in regards to Arnault, “In so many ways, I’ve always felt like this little boy trying to please a father.” Jacobs also reveals: “Chanel would be the scariest job in the world to get, but it would also be the coup de grâce. I’d be scared to death and thrilled, but it’s the only thing I’d love to do other than what I’m doing right now. If that’s all that’s left, then that’s not such a bad thing. Karl’s [Lagerfeld] the perfect person for the job, and he’s not going anywhere, but if there’s anything that tickles me behind the ear every once in a while, that’s it. That’s the only, the ultimate, thing."
2010: Jacobs tells Vogue UK, "I used to say in the beginning that I was like the pig in Babe when the farmer, who was not wildly emotional, expressed himself in a super-warm way. Mr. Arnault does not express himself in a super-warm way, but he has softened up -- I am that pig and he pats me on the back and says, 'That'll do pig', and I just feel this is the highest praise."
January 2011: Arnault tells Tatler Asia, "I could have asked many other talented designers to do Dior, but it would not have been the same. Take Marc Jacobs, he has been a fantastic success at Vuitton and he has a proximity to the Vuitton spirit, but I don't think it would have been a success with Jacobs at Dior and the other way around, if I had asked John [Galliano] to do Vuitton, it would not have worked. An essential ingredient in the success of the brand today is the real proximity of Galliano to the talent of Christian Dior." Less than two months later, Galliano is fired from Dior for making anti-Semitic slurs.
March 2011: Suzy Menkes reports in the International Herald Tribune, “People close to LVMH who chose not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject say Mr. Jacobs is a possible candidate, but he does the Vuitton thing so well that it would be a risk to move him.” At the Vuitton Fall 2011 show, Jacobs tells Menkes “No!” he is not considering John Galliano’s former position at Dior, and also says, “I haven’t been asked.”
August 2011: WWD reports that Marc Jacobs’ move to the top spot at Christian Dior is likely, but not confirmed.