In collaboration with Courtney Denton
Jobs in the fashion industry turn faster than knit leggings at H&M. Over the past two years, onlookers and insiders alike have witnessed a series of monumental changes as several familiar faces have taken — or given up — the reins at some of the world’s most esteemed design houses.
In April 2012, it was announced that Belgian designer Raf Simons would succeed John Galliano as the artistic director of Christian Dior. Dior is a member of the Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton group, otherwise known as LVMH, and the world’s largest luxury conglomerate. Simons was appointed after Galliano was fired for a series of anti-Semitic remarks. Simons formerly served as creative director of the Jil Sander label but was discharged in favor of the return of the brand’s namesake designer. Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, touted Simons’ premiere collection as launching the Dior brand into the 21st century with his infusion of strict minimalism paired with the brand’s heritage of ultrafemininity. It was this same minimalist aesthetic that made naysayers out of many, but Simons continues to approach his collections with a clever sense of reverence for the 67-year-old house.
Hedi Slimane did not approach his appointment as creative director of Yves Saint Laurent in March 2012 with nearly the same reverence. His first course of action was to strip the name of the 51-year-old fashion house to Saint Laurent in the interest of accessibility. Slimane formerly served as the ready-to-wear director of menswear at YSL, after which he continued to oversee menswear design as the creative director of Dior Homme from 2000 to 2007. According to Miles Socha, a staff writer for Women’s Wear Daily, reviews of Slimane’s premiere collection were mixed at best. His following collection for fall 2013 turned lukewarm waters into boiling hot revolt. Slimane abandoned all references to the legendary house’s former aesthetic and turned to the Southern California grunge scene for inspiration. He took another step backward and channeled a quintessential ‘80s rock femme for his spring 2014 collection. According to reviews, the buyers and journalists alike remain underwhelmed.
Most recently, the American fashion industry’s golden boy, Alexander Wang, stepped up as creative director of Balenciaga in November 2012. Wang, who established an esteemed global fashion brand in less than 10 years, was also the winner of the 2008 Council of Fashion Designer of America/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. In addition to overseeing his successful namesake brand, he relocated to Paris this year to work with the team of ateliers he inherited from former creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere. Wang said, in his interview with Mark Holgate for Vogue, that he felt it was important to reinforce Cristobal Balenciaga’s codes while reinterpreting them for a functional, modern wardrobe. His second collection debuted to much critical acclaim, which was undoubtedly due to his ability to infuse the modern streetwear his namesake brand is known for with elements of lightness and volume that are part of the Balenciaga aesthetic.
After 16 years working as creative director for Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs decided to leave the French brand to concentrate on his own labels, Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs. Rumors continue to spread as many begin to speculate about which designer will take over Louis Vuitton, one of the largest fashion labels today with a brand value of $24.8 billion. Jacobs ended his last show at Paris Fashion Week with a collection he said was dedicated to women who have inspired Jacobs throughout his life, such as Coco Chanel, Miuccia Prada and Rei Kawakubo. According to Nicole Phelps of Style.com, Jacobs said that his last collection for Louis Vuitton was for “the showgirls in all of us.” He opened the show with model Edie Campbell, who walked the runway nude and covered graffiti-style in the name of the luxury brand as a reference to Jacob’s earlier collaboration with artist Stephen Sprouse. Jacobs also dressed his models in feather headpieces, bejeweled dresses and crystal-studded jackets — all in the shade of black.
Months after Jacobs’ departure from the French label, the position of creative director of Louis Vuitton remains unfilled. Many believe that Ghesquiere, who left his role as artistic director of Balenciaga last November, is primed to take the position. Ghesquiere worked at Balenciaga for 15 years before his abrupt departure. If Ghesquiere were to take over the role of creative director for Louis Vuitton, he would be in charge of the French label’s women’s collection, with his debut slated for next March.