“A game of musical chairs” is how many industry watchers have described the recent flurry of dramatic designer exits and subsequent high-profile appointments involving many of the most respected fashion houses. While the industry is no stranger to such upheavals, the rate of change of late has been unprecedented, calling many to question the reasons behind what seems to be a now constant turnover.
What appears to be clear is that companies are no longer looking to make lifelong appointments, as they have tended to do in the past, while many designers now see themselves as temporary hired hands, often citing the pressures of the growing fashion calendar and increasing number of collections as factors in their shortened tenures.
Whatever the reasons for what seems to have become the industry’s new norm, new names typically herald a new era at a fashion house, which fuels our fascination, and debuts are much anticipated. Here we profile four longstanding designers who are presenting their inaugural collections at established labels this autumn, and consider their individual aesthetics and what they may bring to their new roles.
Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior
In June, after much speculation, it was officially announced that Maria Grazia Chiuri would be relinquishing her post as co-creative director at Valentino to take the helm at Christian Dior, following the departure of Raf Simons. Ms Chiuri’s appointment to perhaps the most revered and influential position in fashion marks a series of firsts. The house of Dior is getting its first female creative director in its almost 70-year history, and Maria Grazia her first solo role – she has worked alongside her creative partner and fellow Italian Pierpaolo Piccioli since the late 1980s. The duo’s eight-year tenure at Valentino saw the romantic Italian fashion house boldy reimagined, with a new language and sense of modernity; and a subsequent quadrupling in sales, due, in large part, to the success of the pair’s now-iconic line of Rockstud shoes. This talent for reinvigoration, while respecting a house’s history, would seem to make Maria Chiuri’s appointment at Dior a wise choice, and her debut is much anticipated.
Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent
Amid the industry chatter surrounding Hedi Slimane’s rumoured departure from Saint Laurent, it was Anthony Vaccarello who was widely tipped as his successor. So it was perhaps unsurprising when back in April, it was finally announced that Mr Slimane had indeed left the house and the Belgian designer swiftly confirmed as his replacement. The brand’s new creative director, who had been head of his own eponymous label since 2009 as well as the most recent creative force behind Versace’s Versus, was seen by many as Hedi Slimane’s natural successor, given the pair’s penchant for rock-inspired style. However, while Mr Slimane favored a grunge-led take on this familiar trait, Anthony Vaccarello is known for his distinctly glamorous and overtly sexy designs. It remains to be seen how the new creative director’s signature aesthetic will translate at Saint Laurent, and whether he can repeat the success of Hedi Slimane’s controversial but commercially accomplished four-year tenure at the house.
Bouchra Jarra at Lanvin
Haute couturier Bouchra Jarrar was appointed artistic director of womenswear at Lanvin in March of this year, following the unexpected departure of Alber Elbaz after a 14-year tenure. The Cannes-born designer, who was awarded the official haute couture appellation in 2013, held positions at Jean Paul Gaultier, Balenciaga and Christian Lacroix before launching her own label, which, after accepting the role at Lanvin, has since closed. Ms Jarrar’s timeless, refined aesthetic is in keeping with the style cultivated by Alber Elbaz at the French fashion house. However, unlike her predecessor, who was particularly known for his jewel-colored cocktail dresses, Bouchra Jarrar also has a keen focus on daywear. And it is this, together with a desire by the company to make greater inroads into the leather goods market, which it is hoped will improve financial fortunes, as well as breath new life into Paris’s oldest name in couture.
Jonathan Saunders at Diane Von Furstenburg
London-based designer Jonathan Saunders launched his namesake label back in 2003, and quickly became known for his love of bright colors and bold prints. However, following the release of his spring/summer 2016 collection, the award-winning Central St Martins graduate chose to shutter his company, citing personal reasons for the closure. Subsequently rumoured to be taking the helm at Christian Dior, to fill the position vacated by Raf Simons, it was announced in May that Jonathan Saunders would be joining Diane Von Furstenberg as the company’s first chief creative officer. Seen by many as a meeting of minds, with both Ms Furstenberg and Mr Saunders having a passion for print, as well as a desire for effortless dressing, this new chapter at the New York label is highly anticipated; an opportunity to build on the company’s past success, but perhaps more importantly, to take the brand forward to appeal to today’s customer.
Stay tuned for reports on these highly anticipated debut collections.