Designer Musical Chairs

Lara Mansour   |   18 - 09 - 2016

As demands on fashion houses increase, designers are forced into an elaborate dance, as creative directors swap places at an accelerated pace, at the whim of an increasingly discerning market.


There’s more pressure than ever on designers, and the pace at which trends and styles change is faster than ever. There’s certainly an internet component to that, for which we can thank social media. Now a label has to create buzz, season after season, line after line, and that can’t possibly be sustainable for more than just a few years. It is surely a result of this that makes these moves par for the course in the industry, where the standard three-year contracts have allowed designers to move more freely between roles. While Marc Jacobs spent 16 years at Louis Vuitton, and John Galliano spent 15 years at Dior, the tenures have now shortened as designers and executives alike have begun to question the practicality, and sustainability, of the current fashion system.

Alexander Wang is said to have started the game when he did not renew his contract with Balenciaga last July. He is now focusing on his own brand after 3 years at the French fashion house. Demna Gvasalia, the designer of new cult label Vetements with previous experience at Maison Martin Margiela, has taken over at Balenciaga following Wang’s departure. This was followed by shock departures at Christian Dior and Lanvin. Six days after it was announced that the designer Raf Simons was leaving Christian Dior, and weeks after Alexander Wang’s last show for the house of Balenciaga, Lanvin, the oldest surviving French fashion house, announced the somewhat sudden removal of its creative director, Alber Elbaz. The swift departure, just a few months before the Fall Winter collection season was to start, was followed with the appointment of Bouchra Jarrar as creative director. Jarrar is a less known designer, save for that she is a couture designer based in Paris, and of Moroccan descent. Unlike Wang and Simons, both of whom lasted approximately three years at Balenciaga and Dior respectively, Elbaz had been at Lanvin since 2001. He single-handedly revived the brand, making it a fashion favourite, both on and off the red carpet.

In the wake of these movements, it was Hedi Slimane next, who in March parted ways with Saint Laurent after a four-year stint. Days later, Anthony Vaccarello, who had been under Donatella Versace’s wing for her Versus line, was appointed to take Slimane’s place as creative director. Then fast forward four months and it was over to Oscar de La Renta, where Creative Director Peter Copping resigned, less than two years after he was officially installed at the family-owned company, whose namesake passed away in October 2014. This came as a huge surprise because the designer was appointed successor by Oscar de la Renta himself to take over after his death. A new creative director has not been named yet, but the house did say that the Spring Summer 17 show will be designed by an in-house team. Also in July Maria Grazia Chiuri was named creative director of the women’s collections at the house of Christian Dior. The former Valentino co-creative director, who spent 17 years with the brand, will be leaving her artistic partner of eight years, Pierpaolo Piccioli, who has now taken the role of sole Creative Director, and will be the first-ever female to be appointed the role at Dior. Her predecessor, Raf Simons, finally put rumours to rest and joined Calvin Klein as Chief Creative Officer of the brand, Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli announced their departure  from the helm not too long ago, which means he will oversee all aspects of the brand globally.

By Eliza Scarborough