It's been an unending cycle of hasty hiring and firing of creative directors at storied fashion houses in the past one year.
Ludovic de Saint Sernin departed from Ann Demeulemeester after six months, Rhuigi Villaseñor quit Bally after a year-and-a-half, Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby bid adieu to Trussardi after three years, and Charles de Vilmorin left Rochas after two years.
Gone are the days when the global luxury landscape had private and independent players. Today, private equities and beauty-inclined conglomerates call the shots.
Over the past year, some luxury brands have appointed creative directors with unconventional backgrounds. The hiring of buzz-inducing names (Pharrell Williams at Louis Vuitton menswear, for instance) comes with a likelihood of disrupting the market. However, a celebrity figure may not lend gravitas to a heritage label in the long run.
Designer Dhruv Kapoor, who recently showcased at the Milan Fashion Week, says the tight corporate structures might be overwhelming for the new creative crop. “If you observe their personal brands, their strategies and their vision, it might be deeper than a corporate giant and in some ways more authentic. I feel at some point there might be a slight struggle to keep up to corporate patterns, which pushes them to snap out of those roles. Whereas some of them are made for those roles, they prefer to work in the corporate format,” he says.
Le Mill co-founder Cecilia Morelli Parikh notes that today’s creative directors “aren't just creative directors but also managers, business analysts, marketing agents and image makers, apart from designing collections that are expected every season.” The role, as we know it, “has evolved and been re-examined by brands over the years. They now seek someone who is more than just a designer, the creative director is also the face of the brand. Just like Pharrell Williams was appointed as the creative director for Louis Vuitton, which shocked the industry initially, but makes perfect sense because brands are now looking for someone who not only has great fashion sensibilities but also influences the zeitgeist,” she adds.
Luxury entrepreneur Kalyani Saha says at the end of the day, it's all about the sales. “Creative directors make or break commercials. Also, they are very expensive and they don't come alone; it's always their own team. Firing creative directors is not the best image for a brand and also causes a huge upheaval and interrupts seasonal collections,” she says. "Hence, it's never easy for the management to make such decisions."