Creative Director

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Designer Departures
Image source: Vogue

In July 2015, it was announced that Alexander Wang would be leaving Balenciaga, following a short stint at the helm of the brand. The departure seemed to trigger a ripple effect: over the next few months, Raf Simons left Dior, Jonathan Saunders shuttered his label, and Alber Elbaz stepped down from his 14-year tenure as artistic director of Lanvin.

Last year marked a tumultuous time for the fashion industry, and this year looks set to be a similarly bumpy ride, with Grace Coddington’s departure from her creative director position at Vogue, and Giles Deacon calling time on his ready-to-wear label. Some designers’ reasons for leaving have been publicly outed (Deacon’s decision manifested from his desire to focus on couture; Elbaz was dismissed by Lanvin and its majority shareholder), while others have kept schtum. But in light of these recent shake-ups, one word on the lips of fashion critics, professionals and hobbyists alike is ‘burnout.’

While we do not know where Raf Simons will go next (if anywhere at all, besides the realms of his own label), we do know that he left Dior for “personal reasons” and, prior to his departure, he told Vogue International editor Susy Menkes of the “terrible agenda” that comes with holding the fort at an esteemed luxury brand. “The pressure on retailing, aggravated by online sales and the speed of the digital world, has exacerbated the situation,” said Menkes in a Vogue feature. “Then there is social media, as the voracious demands of Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook eat into time and designers fight for attention and links to celebrities,” she added.

Menkes isn’t wrong. In our current, ever-connected climate, the pressure is truly on for fashion brands – as consumers are becoming increasingly fussy with their money, they’re also becoming more demanding. And it’s no wonder we feel entitled to have it all – bricks-and-mortar retailers are falling over themselves to catch up with fast-paced, discount-heavy e-tailers, and luxury brands are inching closer to figuring out which pieces of tech can help to establish relationships with customers.

We live in a world where Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s creative director, is one of fashion’s best-known designers due to his social media savvy; at the time of writing, his glossy, Kardashian-filled Instagram account boasts a cool 2.2 million followers. There’s no doubt that while technology has done fashion so much good, it has also had a detrimental knock-on effect. The ‘noise’ surrounding us may have drowned out one very important point: stress kills creativity. And fashion designers are feeling the brunt of it.

There are, no doubt, more episodes of ‘musical chairs’ in store for fashion in 2016 – this will only be resolved once the industry collectively decides to slow down. In order to innovate, designers need more time – as a WWD journalist put it: “the industry seems to have embraced warp speed as the new black”. In order to keep the conversion rate high, retailers need to put the effort into ditching gimmickry, and finding out what the modern consumer really wants from a shopping experience.

Reported by Grace Howard

“Emilio Pucci is getting some more fresh blood. After naming MSGM’s Massimo Giorgetti as its new creative director in March, the LVMH-owned company announced Tuesday that it is bringing on another outsider as CEO.”

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