The fashion landscape is looking very different from what it once was and you’d be forgiven for feeling a little confused. Since mid-2015 there has been a definite trend, and not just one pertaining to skirt lengths, and that trend is change. This person works here, that person works there – honestly, change seems to be the only thing that is actually certain. Increasingly often we see fashion houses dropping and swapping creative directors, and with it a transformation in brand style and artistic direction. These changes can be very beneficial, particularly for those brands that have begun to stagnate, offering a new lease of life and a chance to blaze a new trail. But they also come with their own costs and potential risks. In order to realise a new leaders’ creative direction, investment must be made to demonstrate and integrate this both in stores and at HQ. It’s rare that the hiring of a creative director means only one new member of staff, and their team (or at least a percentage of them) are usually a part of the package.
The shelf life for creative directors appears to be getting shorter and shorter, and it is increasingly common place for our favourite fashion brands to be hiring again in less than four years. It can be argued that four years does not necessarily give enough time for visions to be realised and success measured; especially with all the outgoings that the change entails. The demands of the industry have changed, and often now the designer is as much the face of the brand as the brand name itself. Social media demands access to anything and everything behind the scenes and customer’s expectations have grown. Instead of the traditional two shows a year there are shows around the clock and this can amount to a lot of pressure, particularly for those running their own label simultaneously. The result for those trying to follow these changes can be equally overwhelming.
- It all began with Alexander Wang.
After several weeks of speculation, it was confirmed that the SS16 show would be Wang’s last at Balenciaga. Both the designer and the brand decided not to extend the contract beyond its original term, with Wang choosing to focus on the growth of his own label. Since then, we have seen his highly regarded AW16 and SS17 collections featuring a collaboration with sporting giant Adidas.
Stepping up to the plate, Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia debuted his first Balenciaga collection for AW16. Forming in 2014, alongside his brother Guram and five of their friends, the Vetements ‘collective’ has gripped the attention of the fashion world, and this attention has translated across to his new appointment. Gvasalia previously headed up womenswear at Louis Vuitton and designed for Maison Martin Margiela.
- Hedi Slimane and Saint Laurent part ways.
Another highly speculated departure came in the form of Hedi Slimane and Saint Laurent – Slimane dropped the Yves. Becoming another member of the four year club, the creative director implemented more than just a name change in his short time at the house. With little of the original Yves Saint Laurent aesthetic left untouched, Slimane’s mark on the house’s legacy is undisputable.
Enter Anthony Vaccarello, stepping down from his position of creative director at Versus Versace. The brand that has now acted as a launch pad for the careers of Christopher Kane and JW Anderson, has tapped Zayn Malik as creative director for a capsule collection to be released next May.
- Unrest at Lanvin.
Following a 14-year tenure, Alber Elbaz and French fashion house Lanvin parted ways. But not on Elbaz’s terms. It is reported that the creative director and owner, Shaw-Lan Wang, did not see eye-to-eye; and news of the departure caused protests from employees demanding reassurance and Elbaz’s return.
But these demands were not answered and it is Bouchra Jarrar who has been named his successor. Jarrar has previously worked under Nicholas Ghesquière at Balenciaga and was briefly Head of Haute Couture at Christian Lacroix, as well as having her own label which she has closed as a result of this appointment. An increasingly common practice as designers find that their own investors can only take them so far, and the pressure of running two labels can become too much.
- Raf Simons takes post at Calvin Klein.
Following Francisco Costa (women’s) and Italo Zucchelli (men’s) exit from Calvin Klein in April 2016, it was almost a guarantee that Raf Simons would be taking the helm. However due to a non-compete agreement, the news was not announced until August. Having spent only three years at Dior, Simons has moved on more quickly than some of his peers and has spoken out on his concerns regarding increased pressure on design teams to produce collections at a faster and faster rate. His appointment at Calvin Klein equips him with his largest platform to date.
- And speaking of Dior…
Dior chose not to rush their decision following Simons departure in October 2015. The in-house design team took charge for the next two collections and the rumour mill almost collapsed in on itself while we waited for an announcement. Riccardo Tisci, Joseph Altuzarra, Sarah Burton and Olivier Rousteing, among others, all being talked up as possible candidates. But former Valentino co-creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri picked everyone to the post and became Dior’s first female creative director in 70 years. Simons stepped in following Galliano’s unceremonious departure in 2012; who, after a forced design hiatus, has returned under Maison Margiela fame (minus the Martin).
- Chow and Osbourne exit DKNY
As 2016 draws to a close, there’s time enough for one more announcement. Following the sale of Donna Karan International (DKI) to G-III Apparel Group Ltd but DKI CEO, Caroline Brown, and DKNY designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne will be stepping down from their positions. The latter are doing so in order to focus their efforts on their own brand – Public School. The pair were named co-creative directors in April 2015, making their reign one of the shortest of all our ‘Movers and Shakers’ and DKNY are yet to announce their successors. Either way, this an exciting new chapter for Donna Karan and Public School; and the fashion world will be watching with baited breathe.
Rumours of moves and shake-ups seem to be the new currency in the fashion world, Celine quickly shutdown speculations of Phoebe Philo’s departure and there were talks of Karl Lagerfeld seeking retirement that have been equally quashed. Age is just a number for Mr Armani who continues on despite the occasional suggestion he may be ready to loosen the reins. For now, all major posts appear to be filled and perhaps there is a moment to relax and enjoy the fruits of these new appointments, to be continued…