The haute couture unit of the Pierre Balmain fashion house has named Laurent Mercier as its new designer, succeeding Oscar de la Renta who left the house in July 2002.

Mercier, who began his carrier with Di Marino in Lausanne, western Switzerland, will take up the new post in January 2003.

Mercier, 38, has designed in Switzerland for the Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Scherrer, Ungaro and Valentino labels. He has also worked for Jean-Paul Gaultier in France, and presented his own-name collection in 1999.