Christophe Decarnin Leaves Balmain

The Balmain designer whose suspicious absence from his own fashion show triggered rumors he was in a mental institution is now officially out at the famed fashion house. Isabel Wilkinson reports.

Christophe Decarnin, the Balmain designer whose suspicious absence from his own fashion show triggered rumors he was in a mental institution, is now officially out, the fashion house announced Wednesday. A rep tells The Daily Beast that there were “work differences” between the house and the designer, and that a replacement will be announced shortly.

Designer Christophe Decarnin is parting ways with Balmain, the famed fashion house announced on Wednesday morning. Decarnin, who has served as creative director of the French label since 2007, was mysteriously absent from its Fall 2011 show during Paris Fashion Week in early March, which triggered speculation that something was amiss.

Balmain announced on Wednesday that Decarnin’s five-year collaboration had come to end. A representative for the house, reached by phone in Paris on Wednesday morning, said that “work differences” caused the split—but what those differences meant: “that I cannot comment on.” The representative said that Decarnin’s departure would be effective immediately, and that a replacement would be announced shortly. His absence in March “is not the reason, but everything is related,” according to the rep. WWD reports that Decarnin and Balmain’s CEO, Alain Hivelin, had simply “reached a breaking point… with the two men said to have widely divergent views on the company’s strategy and future direction.”

Decarnin’s absence from Balmain’s show in Paris was only the latest turn in his public unraveling. The designer, who joined Balmain in 2005 and has been its creative director since 2007, has become known for ushering in the glam-punk-rock of the high-end brand. He is credited for “Balmania,” an obsession with the line’s ripped T-shirt-and-jeans (that retail for thousands of dollars). When he failed to take a bow after his show, the fashion community speculated that his absence was a result of a breakdown fueled by drugs. One magazine even reported that Decarnin had been in a mental institution since January. But as a spokesperson told The Daily Beast at the time, the designer was simply “not feeling well” and “by doctor’s orders needs rest, and that is the only reason he was not present at the show.”

But even then, contradictions were apparent in what the house wanted the public to know about the designer. Hivelin told a crowd of reporters following the show that Decarnin had failed to appear at the show because he didn't go to bed until 5 a.m. “He's not here, he's resting,” he said. The spokesperson, however, immediately clarified Hivelin’s statement, telling The Daily Beast that Decarnin hadn’t, in fact, been working on the collection until 5 a.m. “What he meant is that he was exhausted,” the spokesperson said. “He has been exhausted because this season was particularly demanding and complicated.”

The spokesperson now tells us that while Decarnin’s “health was not part of the decision” for his ousting, his absence in March had something to do with it. “It is not the reason,” the rep said. “But everything is related.”

Last year, Hivelin said that the line has recently enjoyed a growth of more than 50 percent in sales. On Wednesday, he said in a press release: “Since 1945, the house of Pierre Balmain has been one of the leading French and international luxury brands. Christophe Decarnin’s work with the house’s design team contributed to the success that the brand has enjoyed in recent years.”

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Isabel Wilkinson is a fashion and arts correspondent for The Daily Beast.