June 12, 2023

She succeeds Christian Juul Nielsen, who held the role since 2018 and will focus on his advanced contemporary brand, Aknvas.

There is a changing of the design guard at Hervé Léger.

Michelle Ochs, who designed the luxury womenswear collection, Et Ochs, has been tapped as the new creative director, taking over from Christian Juul Nielsen, who held the post since 2018. Nielsen plans to focus on his own label, Aknvas, an advanced contemporary line that he launched in 2019.

“Hervé Léger is a historic fashion house. I am honored to lead the team in this next chapter and make my mark on this iconic brand,” said Ochs, who will oversee all creative aspects of the brand’s dresses and sportswear collections.

Melissa Lefere-Cobb, senior vice president and division head at Hervé Léger, which is part of Centric Brands, said about Ochs: “Her passion for creating unique and striking designs, combined with her deep understanding of the female form, will be instrumental in driving the growth and success of our company.”

The first Hervé Léger collection designed under Ochs’ creative direction will be for spring ’24 and will be shown during New York Fashion Week in September.

Ochs was previously one half of the creative team at Cushnie et Ochs and later launched Et Ochs in 2021. It is part of JS Group, a Canadian-family-run business. Her last collection for Et Ochs is for resort ’24. The line will continue and she will advise the team.

“I’ve always followed Michelle’s career both at Cushnie et Ochs and Et Ochs, and I think she has a really sensual point of view and she designs for a really modern woman,” said Lefere-Cobb. “As we talk about phase two and the growth of Hervé Léger, I think she can really help us continue on our trajectory and introduce more modern silhouettes and different fabrications. I think she has a great use of stretch, and I think her sensibility will blend really well with the house codes at Hervé Léger.”

Lefere-Cobb said that Nielsen made many contributions to Léger’s recent success. “We relaunched a brand that wasn’t as relevant as it has been in the past, and he really helped us re-establish it as a red carpet and celebrity-driven brand. The brand had its height in the ’80s and again in the Aughts, and now in the last few years. We got back on the red carpet and got back on the New York Fashion Week calendar and had presentations,” she said. She said the brand did some high-level collaborations with Julia Restoin-Roitfeld and Law Roach. “Those brought a big spotlight to the brand,” she added.

Hervé Léger is sold at retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Net-a-porter, and it recently launched with Revolve, “tapping into a different customer for us,” she said. The average retail price of a Hervé Léger dress is around $1,690 to $1,790. The company shows in Paris four times a year. 

Lefere-Cobb noted that when she took over the brand in 2019, it had almost no international distribution. Now the brand is sold in Selfridges, KaDeWe, has a pop-up going into Harrods next Sunday, and sells more than 20 other specialty stores overseas. She said the online business “is great, and has remained strong, and it will be great to see Michelle’s impact on that.” 

“It was just time for a change. I just felt Michelle was someone who could lead us to the next phase of growth,” said Lefere-Cobb.

Ochs will report to Lefere-Cobb.

After graduating from Parsons School of Design, where Ochs met Carly Cushnie, they went into business together from 2008 to 2018. Cushnie et Ochs was known for its unique, sleek aesthetic and striking cutout silhouettes. The brand became a red-carpet staple, and was worn by such celebrities as Michelle Obama, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lawrence, Jennifer Lopez and Gal Gadot. 

Cushnie et Ochs won an Ecco Domani award in 2009, was nominated for a Swarovski Award for Womenswear at the 2012 CFDA Fashion Awards, was a finalist for the 2011 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and a nominee for the 2010 Fashion Group International Rising Star Award. Cushnie et Ochs was nominated for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in 2015 and 2016, and Et Ochs was nominated in 2022 and 2023. 

Ochs and Cushnie, who were cofounders and co-chief creative officers, split in 2018 and the Cushnie et Ochs business closed. Cushnie continued to design a collection called Cushnie, which shuttered in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and difficult retail environment. Ochs took some time off to start a family before launching Et Ochs, creating a designer collection of jackets, bodysuits, pants, dresses, knitwear and gowns. 

Léger, which became famous for its bandage dress that celebrated the female form, continues to produce its signature dresses along with a new product assortment of bodysuits, skirts and jumpsuits. The brand is available in more than 80 points of sale across North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. 

This month, Nielsen showed Hervé Léger’s resort collection. As reported in WWD Friday, Nielsen continued to elevate signature body-con, bandage and fringed looks with inspiration stemming from his Danish roots. “The use of sensual cutouts and gilded hardware further elevated drapey, body-hugging knit jersey numbers,” wrote WWD.

“For me, it’s been five fantastic years at Hervé Léger,” said Nielsen on Friday. “I think it’s very interesting to work on a brand that has a history, especially in America. That’s been part of my training to work in houses that have strong histories. But I’ve decided to solely focus on my own brand Aknvas. Aknvas has grown way faster than I ever expected.”

Nielsen said he’s had a lot of support for Aknvas from celebrities, such as Mary J. Blige, Kate Bosworth and Halle Berry, as well as retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Forward and Shopbop. 

Asked what he felt he contributed to the Hervé Léger, brand, he said, “I think I added modernity and youth to a house that maybe was sleeping a little.”

Nielsen, whose previous experience included roles at Dior, Nina Ricci and Oscar de la Renta, had been working as artistic director of Land of Distraction when he took the Hervé Léger role on a freelance basis. As founder and creative director of Aknvas, Nielsen injects the brand with a Danish influence, reflecting his upbringing. His aesthetic is minimalist, mixing mannish fabrics with clean lines and easy shapes. He punctuates the line with surprising cuts, graphics and colors. 

Nielsen won Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award for womenswear in 2020 and for menswear in 2022, both times for Aknvas, and was named a finalist for the Fashion Trust Award this year. He introduced his first Aknvas menswear collection in 2020.

Read the full article: WWD.