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Four Fashion Houses with 70-Something Designers, No Definitive Succession Plans

>> Yves Saint Laurent passed away last year at 71, Valentino Garavani retired two years ago at 75; but a number of their contemporaries, also in their seventies, are still going strong — with no outright successors named.

Giorgio Armani, who turned 75 in July, hinted in October that he was taking precautions, especially after his bout of hepatitis, and grooming a chosen few — but insiders don't expect names until the last minute. Armani, sole owner of his $2.4 billion company, is a special case, according to Roberto Jorio Fili, a former executive at Valentino, Roberto Cavalli, and Gianfranco Ferre:

He's not the classic designer who wants to stay in the creative part and delegates the rest to managers. Armani is the business. Not one person can replace him on their own, it would have to be several people and I think that's what he's probably thinking.

Then there's Chanel »It's well-known that Karl Lagerfeld, at 71, has no intention of stepping down at Chanel, and despite the fashion house's statement on the subject — "Karl Lagerfeld is the creative director of Chanel and enjoys a long-term contract which is absolutely not put into question. His succession is not on the agenda." — many find it unbelievable that Chanel doesn't have a contingency plan in place, according to Reuters. Alber Elbaz's name was bandied around earlier this year, and most fashion houses keep several candidates in mind, declining to name names for fear that their top pick might be poached.

Also evading the subject are the teams behind Oscar de la Renta, 77, and Ralph Lauren, 70, who did not respond when questioned about succession by Reuters.

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