Star designer Marc Jacobs is leaving Louis Vuitton after 16 years with the fashion brand, a source close to the French company's parent LVMH said on Wednesday.
Jacobs steered Vuitton's growth into a global luxury brand which generates more than 7 billion euros ($9.46 billion) of revenues a year, contributing half of LVMH's operating profits.
"Marc Jacobs is leaving Vuitton and will focus on his own brand," the source said on condition of anonymity.
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Media reports said Jacobs was leaving Louis Vuitton to develop his own fashion brand with the aim of floating his business on a stock exchange within a few years.
The Marc Jacobs fashion brand, which is also controlled by the world's biggest luxury group LVMH, is one of the fastest growing labels within the French group's fashion and leather goods division.
Marc Jacobs also launched a cosmetics products line in August in the United States, with exclusive distribution handled by Sephora, LVMH's beauty products retail chain.
The move comes as Louis Vuitton's sales growth halved to around 5 percent in the past year and as the brand is trying to become more exclusive. It has hired accessories designer Darren Spaziani, ex-Proenza Schouler, to beef up its high-end offering of leather bags.
Nicolas Ghesquiere, a darling of fashion editors, who left Balenciaga last year after having successfully revamped the Kering fashion brand, is seen as a top contender to replace Jacobs.
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"It would be a positive sign if Ghesquiere joined Louis Vuitton as he is one of the most coveted designers today and he would give a creative jolt to the brand," said David Da Maia, analyst at brokerage Aurel BGC in Paris.
Marc Jacobs on Wednesday presented his last collection for Louis Vuitton, an all-black swan song that incorporated elements from his past shows such as the train station he famously reconstituted and the slow-turning white carousel carrying models, including Kate Moss, two years ago.