Your primer on the latest news in fashion, from Hanan Besovic of @ideservecouture.
After just one season, Ludovic de Saint Sernin has left his post as Creative Director at Belgian brand Ann Demeulemeester. The French designer took the helm in December 2022, and created a sexier, more gender-fluid version of the label in his debut Fall/Winter 2023 collection. However, just two months after showing the collection during Paris Fashion Week, De Saint Sernin has exited Ann Demeulemeester, and currently the brand is without a creative director.
While fashion’s game of designer musical chairs is nothing new, the pace seems to only have increased. In November 2022, Gucci announced that Alessandro Michele would be leaving the brand, to some shock among the fashion crowd. Over seven years, Michele created a completely new visual identity for Gucci and catapulted the brand to success—one of the bigger names to exit the top position. His role was eventually filled by Sabato De Sarno, who previously held positions at Prada and Valentino, but is a new name to mainstream fashion media. Though shocking, Michele’s exit seems to have been calm before the storm.
The next designer to suddenly leave a very successful post was Jeremy Scott, who in March ended a decade-long tenure at Moschino. Be it a collaboration with H&M, his McDonald’s inspired debut, or a collection infused with the streets of New York, Scott’s playfulness and humor paired with smart branding seemed to be a winning formula for Moschino, and the announcement that Scott is no longer the Moschino man was met with some surprise. The reasons for his exit are unclear, and the position is yet to be filled.
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Trussardi is another brand left without a creative director—in fact, creative directors. Back in May 2021, the brand tapped Benjamin A Huseby and Serhat Işık, the founders of Berlin-based design collective GmbH, to lead the label. GmbH made waves as a newcomer in fashion by mixing feminine and masculine elements, especially with their Basam tailored coat. By March 2023, Trussardi announced it was parting ways with the GmbH duo, as well as plans to restructure.
Lanvin was the next one to announce a change in creative leadership. After a few designers tried their luck with the house, it seemed that Bruno Sialelli was the one to continue Jeanne Lanvin’s legacy. Well, all until April of this year, when Sialelli announced his departure after four years at the house. Even though Lanvin has not yet announced a new creative director, the brand did unveil a new direction. Mimicking Jean Paul Gaultier and AZ Factory, the house will explore “creative partnerships” under the name Lanvin Lab, where proven and rising talents will create guest collections focused on leather goods and accessories.
In 2021 an exciting opportunity appeared for a newly-graduated Charles de Vilmorin, who, shortly after his last year at L’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, was tapped to lead Rochas as its creative director. De Vilmorin’s inexperience made him a surprise pick, mainly because he only presented his first collection for his eponymous label in April 2020. Fast forward to April 2023, and 26-year-old De Vilmorin has been added to the group of designers that have left their creative director position this year.
The game of designer exits took an even more serious turn when Tom Ford announced he was retiring from his eponymous label five months after selling the brand to Estée Lauder for $2.8 billion. For his final collection, Ford reissued 13 favorite looks from the past 13 years of his brand. The accompanying videos, shot by Steven Klein, featured some of his muses like Amber Valletta, Joan Smalls, and Karlie Kloss. Ford didn’t leave his spot empty, but in fact named Peter Hawkings, his right hand since his time at Gucci, as creative director.
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Bally is one of the latest brands to have no one at its creative helm. Rhuigi Villaseñor, a Manilla-born, Los-Angeles raised designer and a founder of streetwear label RHUDE, left the brand after just 14 months. Reportedly, the decision was mutual.
At this point, it feels like every week or two there is a designer that leaves a house. Let’s be real, the talent is there. All the designers mentioned above have built strong brands and a name for themselves—maybe it just wasn’t the right fit. While its part of a fashion life cycle for creative directors to change, it feels like the days of a long tenure at a label have passed, and just like everything else in fashion, creative directors seem to have become instant products. Are brands just cycling through designers until they find the right fit, or are brands willing to give designers time to grow and establish a vision? Well, it depends. Establishing a vision takes time and includes possible risk, which might lead to not instant profitability. The question is, how ready are certain brands for that?
Currently, all the eyes in fashion are directed towards two designers: De Sarno, who will show his first collection for Gucci in September, and Pharrell Williams (yes that Pharrell Williams) who will debut his Louis Vuitton menswear collection in June after taking the house’s head creative post following the death of beloved designer Virgil Abloh.