October has been a stormy month in the world of fashion. After the various successes of the fashion weeks, October came with breaking news: Demna Gvasalia was appointed as the successor of Alexander Wang for the craved position of Creative Director at Balenciaga.
As fall approached, another announcement was about to set the scene for an industry-shake up: Raf Simons declared to leave his position as Creative Director of Dior. Although rumors about his exit had been circulating for weeks, it still hit the news as unexpected.
Last week, as if it weren’t enough, Alber Elbaz announced he was about to step down from his role of Creative Director of Lanvin after a 14-year-long tenure. In the official announcement, Elbaz stated that his departure followed a “decision of the company’s majority shareholders”, but others say that it might be due to a disagreement between the designer himself and Lanvin’s owner Shaw-Lan Wang and chief executive Michèle Huiban.
Rumors say that this move will make him the perfect candidate as the new Dior creative soul. But is he?
After Raf Simons’ bitter departure, all the major newspapers are trying to predict who will be next. Speculations are hardly ever correct, but here’s a brief summary of the rumors.
As stated before, Alber Elbaz seems to be the perfect candidate. In the last 14 years, Elbaz was responsible of Lanvin’s revival; he was able to combine the brand’s legacy with the taste of the time keeping an eye on the present (Elbaz was also one of the first designers to collaborate with H&M). His feminine and classical touch could be well-suitable to Dior’s rich and traditional heritage. Most importantly, his past experience witnesses that he can perfectly cope with managing the identity of a historical brand and his creativity.
Taking further steps, Elbaz was also Bernard Arnault’s first choice for Dior when John Galliano was forced to leave in 2011. Nevertheless, the reasons that brought him to reject this proposal back then may still hold true. Another point that seems to discard this possibility is part of the speech that Elbaz gave at the Fashion Group International Night of Stars in New York: “everyone in fashion just needs a little more time.” This claim is also one of the reasons why Raf Simons is supposed to have left Dior: creating six collections a year is a major challenge, which puts the creative capacity of a designer under considerable pressure.
Someone also whispered the name of Phoebe Philo, the current designer of Céline. Phoebe Philo is known for her solid family values, which may suggest that she’ll be unlikely to leave London for keeping up with the stressful pace that such a position implies.
Other rumors involved the names of Jonathan Anderson, Chitose Abe of Sacai and even Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, which have their own brands to manage and are quite unlikely to leave their job.
Least but not last, some consider that Bernard Arnault and Sidney Toledano, the CEO of Dior, may emulate their direct competitor François Pinault (Kering), who decided to appoint new fashion names at the top of Gucci and Balenciaga, with Alessandro Michele and Demna Gvasalia respectively. The Gucci brand has seen some issues in the past few years, but sales have now stabilized with the new design and management team. Will Gucci’s success push Dior executives to bring some fresh air to the vertex of the company?
This October turmoil has raised some issues about the fashion industry. Is the pace of the fashion world unsustainable? The Dior position is one of the most desired job in the world, but it involves a level of stress that not many would be able to bear, and a responsibility that few would be willing to take up. Who’s next? Only time will tell.
by Francesca Magri