Fashion's Star Designers Shake-Up
Recently, the fashion world appears to be experiencing a shake-up, with news of star designers’ departures and replacements coming to us every other month. With big names like Hedi Slimane and Raf Simons available and up-for-grabs by the abundance of top-tier fashion houses looking for a fresh start, speculations and anticipations for their next move is at an all-time high. While this spells for exciting times ahead for fashion enthusiasts, it also brings to light questions that examine the relationship between fashion houses and designers, and even to some extent – the role and importance of these individuals in charge of the house’s artistic direction.
If you have been confused about the industry’s musical chairs play, here is an update of what has been happening so far.
Who: Alessandra Facchinetti is the most recent creative director to exit a top fashion house. After stints at luxury brands like Valentino and Gucci, Facchinetti arrived at Tod’s three years ago as the creative director for its women’s collections.
Why: The designer’s decision to step down from her post last week was with the intentions to “focus on other projects put aside in order to be able to achieve Tod’s strategies”.
What’s Next: There is no word as yet of Facchinetti’s replacement at Tod’s, or of her own future plans.
Who: In April, Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli departed from their respective creative director appointments for Calvin Klein Collection women’s and men’s lines.
Why: Their exit was prompted by the company’s new strategy to consolidate and unify all of the house’s brands under one creative vision, to achieve a long-term goal of becoming a $10 billion global business.
What’s Next: The company has yet to appoint a new creative director, which has helped to fuel the rumour mill that Raf Simons might be taking over as creative director to helm the brand and steer it towards a new vision and direction.
Who: Hedi Slimane. After four exciting (and often controversial) years as YSL’s creative director, Slimane departed the fashion brand early this April. In his tenure as creative director, Slimane introduced the now brand iconic black-and-white ads, as well as renaming the ready-to-wear collection to Saint Laurent.
Why: It is rumoured that Slimane’s contract with YSL expired and both parties could not agree on the terms of a new contract.
What’s Next: YSL promptly replaced Slimane with former Versus Versace designer Anthony Vaccarello (followed by the removal of any trace of Slimane on Instagram). As for the future of Hedi Slimane, it comes with no surprise that his availability is matched with high speculative buzz and breath-holding anticipation. The man himself has dismissed rumours that he is in the process of establishing his own label, while many expect to see him taking up a position at Chanel soon.
Who: The relative low-key designer Massimiliano Giornetti departed Ferragamo in March after 16 years at the fashion house, six of which was served as the brand’s creative director.
Why: No official reason was offered for Giornetti’s departure other than a statement via a spokesperson that referred to a “just cause”.
What’s Next: Ferragamo joins the ranks of Dior and CK to have a vacancy for the creative director position, although the fashion house has said that it will appoint someone from within as Giornetti’s replacement. On the other hand, Giornetti has not made known his future plans.
Who: Stefano Pilati stepped down from this role as head of design for Ermengildo Zegna Couture in February. The previous creative director of Yves Saint Laurent was the third menswear star designer to part ways with their respective houses in that week alone.
Why: Pilati’s departure from Zegna was believed to be mutually agreed upon, with the designer stating his decision to have been motivated by the “wish to focus on other projects that I had put aside in order to achieve our common goals with Zegna Couture".
What’s Next: Alessandro Sartori has replaced Pilati as the artistic director, returning to the company after a stint with Berluti. Sartori has been given the responsibilities of undertaking all Zegna brands. There has been no news on Stefano Pilati’s next challenge.
Who: Only a matter of days before news of Stefano Pilati’s departure from Zegna, Brendan Mullane stepped down after three years as Brioni’s creative director.
Why: Mullane and Brioni parted ways amicably.
What’s Next: The Italian label has since appointed Justin O’Shea as their new creative director. A fresh, albeit unexpected and surprising choice, Justin O’Shea was the global fashion director for the German online retailer MyTheresa.com before landing his new role at Brioni. As for Mullane, he appears to be keeping his own counsel.
Who: Alessandro Sartori. The designer, in his five years spent, proved to be instrumental in transforming Berluti into a luxury menswear label. Sartori implemented several initiatives which include the launching of Berluti's first line of sneakers.
Why: Sartori departed from Berluti to pursue a new opportunity, which turned out to be his appointment as artistic director at Zegna.
What’s Next: While Sartori has returned to Zegna, Berluti has yet to find his replacement.
Who: Alber Elbaz was fired unexpectedly by Lanvin in October last year, just a week after Raf Simon’s resignation from Dior. Elbaz’s tenure at Lanvin lasted for 14 stellar years, where he revitalized the brand from its “sleeping beauty” reputation, as described by majority owner Shaw-Lan Wang.
Why: Directional differences and disagreements between the designer, owner Shaw-Lan Wang and Chief Executive Officer Michèle Huiban.
What’s Next: Bouchra Jarrar has been confirmed as Lanvin’s new artistic director. As for Alber Elbaz, he has not moved on to another fashion house, but he doesn't seem to mind it. Speaking at The New School’s Parsons School of Design recently, he remarked that he “came here without a private car, without a secretary and without a public relations representative to tell me what to say. There's something quite fabulous about being free.”
Who: Raf Simons’ exit from Dior in October last year came as a surprise to many who saw his three-and-a-half-year tenure there as nothing short of remarkable and modernising.
Why: According to Dior, Simons’ departure was cited to be “for personal reasons”. Over time, Simons has been vocal on the reasons for leaving Dior – the speed of fashion that limits the creative process, as well as the desire to focus on his namesake brand.
What’s Next: Months after Simons’ departure, Dior is still struggling with finding a replacement. Simons has been focusing on his namesake label and will be showing his eponymous spring 2017 menswear collection during Pitti Uomo in June. Interestingly, the situation at Calvin Klein has also fuelled rumours that Raf Simons is on the verge of taking over the creative reins.