Wanted: Designers for a Long-Term Commitment

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I try not to be this person who keeps a nostalgic vision but every time I think about the current status of luxury fashion, it’s hard to avoid it. We are going through really weird times. Reading this post by Nicole Phelps, reflecting on the exit of Hedi Slimane from Saint Laurent, I realised that high fashion is going to a dangerous path. How brands will keep up with their legacies if the shift of creative directors becomes the norm?

Tom Ford stayed almost 15 years at Gucci. John Galliano, 14 at Dior (and as far as we know he was let go because of a personal crisis, not professional disagreements). Nicholas Ghesquiére, Marc Jacobs and Alber Elbaz were at Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and Lanvin, respectively, for over a decade as well. Now, 5 years seem already a long time as Raf Simons, Alexander Wang and Slimane not even reached this milestone. Whoever comes next at Dior and Saint Laurent will face a challenge to maintain the commercial success of the predecessors with probably less freedom to create. Yes, less freedom because in the Saint Laurent case, there were complete renovation in the stores looks and even in the logo (the Yves was dropped, remember?). For obvious reasons, this kind of investment will not be repeated soon.

From the consumer perspective, maybe the names of the designers are not so relevant as long as the products are appealing. However, just knowing that this musical chair is becoming frequent is enough to damage a brand image. How clients will believe in the so-called heritage if companies can’t keep their heads of creation for more than few seasons? Isn’t it ironic?

Maybe the next frontier will be a type of fast fashion collaboration approach towards luxury. The in-house team manages the everyday activities whilst seasonal partnerships with XYZ will bring the buzz. Frankly, I can see it coming. After all, we live in Snapchat era, where content is created to literally just disappear in a matter of hours.

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