The Creative Directors are the visionaries behind the brand, where the creativity and creations ideated in the mind of these people are the brands' swan songs. Before they most often stayed with the brand for many years even for decades but in an ever-changing global world with pressure from fast-moving fashion and the ability to deliver new seasonal collections and artist collaborations, then some brands are replacing directors at an even faster pace than before.
The fashion market has become a 'Ludo game' where strategic positions are re-arranged in order to strengthen the brand's offer. In these reshuffles, some of the Creative Directors moving around the fashion houses are familiar faces. It is common that a designer moves directly from one fashion brand into another, either because of their artistic ability to interpret a brands vision and stay true to the heritage, or their designs and creations are hot in the market.
Situations, where the same designer has been part of a strategic reshuffle, counts Raf Simons who started at Jil Sander in 2005, moving to Dior in 2012 and then to be Calvin Klein's first-ever Creative Director in 2016 and currently still in the position. Or the example with Stuart Vevers, who came to Mulberry as Creative Director in 2004, moving to Loewe in 2007 to end up at Coach in 2013 and still being Creative Director there.
Even so with the reshuffles of the key names of Creative Directors in the industry, some of the major houses let new talent take their attempts, and lesser prominent names move into the Creative Director position. This has happened amongst others at Hermès appointing Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski as Creative Director in 2014, or Chloé with Natacha Ramsay-Levi in 2017.
In other cases, the tenures as Creative Directors are cut short simply because they fail to comply or have internal disagreements with the management or create underperforming or badly designed collections out of context with the brand. These more devastating cases where the Creative Designers have had very short time at houses due to the failure to comply or deliver counts names as Bouchra Jarrar at Lanvin who had 16 months before being removed from the position as womenswear director, or Justin O’Shea at Brioni whose tenure lasted just 6 months before he was out of the position, due to his radical changes to the brand image.
Yet other cases of disputes arise even after the Creative Director has been with the company for several years. Changes caused by disputes between Creative Directors and management also counts those who’s been with brands for decades such as Alber Elbaz who had been at the Paris based fashion Maison Lanvin since 2001 but was 'removed' from the company by the majority stakeholders after 14 years in the position as Creative Director for the brand. This shows that drastic changes in the brand can come suddenly.
One is enough, two is a party, three's a crowd.
Mainly the norm for the fashion houses is to have one main Creative Director, who is overseeing the whole creative process of the design and communication, as Karl Lagerfeld does for Chanel.
But in some cases brands can have two directors in charge overseeing each their area, as is the case for Dior with Maria Grazia Chiuri in charge of their womenswear and accessories and Kris Van Assche for Dior Homme, or Louis Vuitton’s Nicola Ghesquière who’s in charge of Louis Vuitton’s women’s collections and Kim Jones being style director of the ready-to-wear menswear collections.
But in an attempt to diversify through the design and become stronger came from Salvatore Ferragamo’s, who chose to have not two, but three Creative Directors each overseeing their respective area with Fulvio Rigoni on womenswear, Guillaume Meilland for menswear and Paul Andrew on the women’s footwear. It didn’t last long, because after having announced the trio in November 2016, a year after by October 2017 Fulvio Rigoni was out, and the trio became a duo with Paul Andrew taking over Fulvio Rigoni’s area and fully in charge of womenswear, shoes, and accessories. The announcement to go from three back to two main Creative Directors was that the Ferragamo Spring 18 collection was lacking coherence between the womenswear and women shoes, according to Eraldo Poletto, Ferragamo’s group chief executive.
Slow and steady wins the race
Some fashion brands have kept their Creative Directors in charge even for more than a decade. These brands have essentially been steered by the interpretational vision of the Creative Director and carried them into the 21st century and in the end made the company what it is currently is. Brands that can pride themselves with a current Creative Directors that has stayed for more than a decade counts Tomas Maier at Bottega Veneta who’s been Creative Director since 2001, or Burberry’s Christopher Bailey who came in as Creative Director in 2001 too, with the latter exiting the company by the end of 2018.
With a lot of speculations around the lucrative position as Creative Director at the high profile brands, rumors and unknowns surround it when new replacements have to be found - do they take a prominent name from another company, or find someone new internally who can bring on the company’s legacy and designs. Thinking of this raises questions in the current state of some fashion brands, as of whether or not Versus will continue without one specific Creative Director or have multiple designers overseeing the designs? Will Emilio Pucci find a new Creative Director after the departure of Massimo Giorgetti? Or if Phoebe Philo will make a move on the longlasting rumors about her departure from Céline? And most important, who will take over the legacy of Burberry from Christopher Bailey from 2018 and onwards?