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Saint Laurent's Sales Are Booming

Gucci's, however, are not.

Critics are still divided about Hedi Slimane's designs for Saint Laurent, but customers are not. Ever since the designer took creative lead at the storied fashion house, sales have boomed — and show no signs of slowing down soon.

Sales of Saint Laurent goods were up 27 percent in the first quarter of the year, compared to the first quarter of 2013, parent company Kering said Thursday, making it the French conglomerate's fastest-growing brand.

Kering attributed the increase to strong sales of Saint Laurent's leather goods, particularly the brand's Sac de Jour and Monogram bags, and to changes in store design and merchandising: Sales in its own stores are up 72 percent year-over-year.

Other brands performed less well. After a slight decline in 2013, Gucci sales were flat (up 0.3 percent) due to a decrease in wholesale sales. (Kering says that's because of Gucci's "increasingly selective distribution policy" — and indeed, Kering is downsizing its wholesale businesses in favor of its direct-to-consumer businesses across the board, following in the footsteps of Prada and Burberry.) The company did not break out results for Balenciaga, noting only that sales "continued to grow," especially in Balenciaga's own stores.

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Overall, sales were up 1.2 percent to 2.4 billion euros in the quarter. Sales from Kering's luxury brands — which include Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney — were up 6.3 percent year-over-year, while sales from its sports and lifestyle portfolio, which includes Puma and Volcom, were down 0.2 percent. The company said recently it is looking to acquire new sports and lifestyle brands as it attempts to turn around Puma.