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Richemont teams up with designer Alber Elbaz for fashion venture

PARIS, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Richemont said on Friday that it was teaming up with former Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz for a new venture at a time when luxury goods groups are vying to make star hires.

Richemont, best-known as a jewellery and watch business with labels like Cartier, gave few details of the "start-up", and declined to comment on whether Elbaz would be rolling out a fully-fledged brand and clothing collections.

The project is a departure for Richemont, which has less of a footprint in fashion than rivals like Christian Dior owner LVMH or Gucci parent Kering, and the group had tended to expand by making acquisitions.

It does own fashion label Chloe, however, as well as Azzedine Alaia.

The venture, called AZfashion, will focus on "developing solutions for women of our times," Elbaz said in a statement.

During his 14-year tenure at Lanvin, Elbaz was credited with reviving the French couture house's fortunes, with modern takes on silk cocktail dresses and colourful, feminine designs.

Lanvin sales slumped following his departure in 2015 and the brand was eventually bought by China's Fosun.

Elbaz has since been courted by luxury brands - he collaborated with Italian shoemaker Tod's on some loafer and bag designs - though he had yet to sign up to a new label full time.

Several luxury brands have hired big shot designers in recent years to try and revive their fortunes, including Britain's Burberry, which took on ex-Givenchy star Riccardo Tisci.

Others are experimenting with celebrities to lure younger shoppers, such as LVMH, which has launched a new fashion brand with pop singer Rihanna.

Richemont's jewellery brands in particular have been performing well but like luxury rivals the company is exposed to turmoil in Hong Kong, a big shopping hub. Richmont will publish a sales update on Nov. 8. (Reporting by Sarah White. Editing by Jane Merriman)