Jil Sander has confirmed that creative director Rodolfo Paglialunga will be stepping down after three years at the helm. His collection at the latest Milan Fashion Week in February was his last with the brand.
With news of this nature breaking on a seemingly weekly basis, sometimes more frequently than that, some are questioning the role of 'Creative Director' and its integrity to their brands. Andrew Rosen, chief executive of Theory and of Helmut Lang, spoke with The New York Times to this effect, regarding his upcoming plans for the latter.
Instead of the normal head hunt, which Givenchy, Roberto Cavalli, and now Jil Sander are all more than likely engaged in, Rosen has taken a different approach with Lang. The pinnacle of 90s cool, there's no doubt that the label needs a little tender love and care to reestablish itself and claim its former glory. But rather than dip into the normal pool of designers (as designer and creative director are now seemingly interchangeable), he has cast his net to the world of journalism and snapped up Dazed & Confused Editor Isabella Burley - giving her the title "Editor in Residence".
Confusing? One AdAge article claims that the role of Creative Director will cease to exist within the next 10 years, or at least how we currently perceive it. And although they are writing in reference to marketing and advertisement agencies specifically, it's little more than a stone's throw away from our beloved fashion industry, which is heavily reliant on both of these. Perhaps this, let's call it an experiment, from Rosen, will become the norm and the current trend for creative directors lasting no more than a handful of years is just the start of whats to come. But with the average Cheif Exec lasting 10 years, why is it that creatives are always on the move?
In her new role, Burley will continue her current responsibilities at Dazed in London but will travel to New York monthly to oversee creative aspects of Lang - one such project that we've already been enlightened to is the upcoming collaboration with Hood By Air's Shayne Oliver. The designer will be producing a collection for both men and women, to be unveiled in September and on sale in November or December. This will be alongside the regular Lang offering from the in-house design team. Essentially, Rosen's choice to break away from relying on a single designer allows him "flexibility" to work with a range of designers and keep things fresh. Burley will oversee this, and operate... like an editor, "controlling the message and keeping it focused."
But naturally, there is some concern with the breaking of the status quo. As The NYT also pointed out, there have already been some recent failed attempts - namely the hiring of Buyer Justin O'Shea at Brioni as Creative Director and Schiaparelli's attempt at "Guest Star" Collaborators instead of one designer taking the helm. Both reverted back to the tried and testing model within the year.
Perhaps CEOs and boards of directors are overestimating "The Power of the Brand", and not attributing enough credit to their creative driving force - the people who run them. Brands may have personalities but they are the result of the people who create them, and they have ample personality of their own that consumers connect to. Givenchy for example, Riccardo Tisci is seemingly becoming a rare breed after 12 years tenure with the brand, however, he was, and still currently is, synonymous with the brand. We saw Givenchy grow alongside him as a designer/creative director, his sexy style became the brand's staple. We're still waiting to see if it's about to become Versus Versace's too. Without the time and capacity to explore and expand, there is a worry that creativity may be stifled and brands identities confused in the eyes of the customer - if you weren't already finding it difficult to keep up with the creative director musical chairs. Even during the writing of this article, we've seen Clare Waight Keller announced as Tisci's successor and Natacha Ramsay-Levi replacing her at Chloe from Louis Vuitton. The music hasn't stopped jus yet.
But you never know unless you try. This could just be a bit of a tantrum as those who have been comfortable with the current state of things are forced to try a new and more appropriate system for the world of today. Rosen may well be on to something, and this may be reflective of the workforce of the future. As more and more positions become automated, it's predicted that much of the population will adopt a more 'freelance' style of working, with employers taking on the staff with skills they need as and when they are required, rather than a long-term workforce. Perhaps this is a bit of a leap to conclusions, but the same AdAge article did state that one Japanese Agency has hired a robot as it's new creative director... It seems like the days of "a job for life" really are drawing to a close, Tisci's departure almost seems testament to that. Karl Lagerfeld's 34 year reign at Chanel a nod to the past.
Maybe Helmut Lang will reach the elusive 'cool' status it's chasing with its new Editor/Creative/Design/Collaborations, maybe Jil Sander will return to her label for the fourth time... We may be a little speculation fuelled but there are no maybes that the Fashion and employment landscapes are a'changing.