While there is seemingly never a dull day in fashion, the past few months have been particularly busy, with an almost endless round of designers engaged in professional musical chairs
Making sense of the fashion merry-go-round: who's gone where and what to expect
Just as one departure is tearfully announced in the fashion industry, a replacement is – often after an indecently short period – flaunted across the press and declared the best thing that ever happened. It can be hard to keep track of such a merry-go-round, so here is our rundown of the latest movers and shakers.
Berluti: Haider Ackermann out, Kris Van Assche in
Haider Ackermann, installed to great fanfare at Berluti just three seasons ago, is stepping down, it was announced earlier this week. The Columbian-born French designer, who established his eponymous label in 2001, was once tipped to take over Christian Dior from John Galliano, and turned down the offer to head Maison Margiela (where Galliano eventually ended up). Karl Lagerfeld was impressed enough with Ackermann to tout him as a possible successor at Chanel, and he has also been described as the new Yves Saint Laurent. Yet despite such pressure, Ackermann has always chosen to resolutely walk his own path, exploring punk and gothic themes via simplicity of cut mixed with interesting fabrics. With clients including Tilda Swinton, Victoria Beckham and Kanye West, his is a taste that appeals to the slightly left field.
So when he was named creative head at Berluti last year, it was considered to be a daring but smart appointment, because Ackermann would bring Berluti to a new audience. His first show for the house was for autumn/winter, and was met with applause – he built on the luxury heritage of Berluti, delivering pieces that were made using the finest materials, but that carried a frisson of the designer’s punky edge. Now, just three seasons later, Ackermann is out. While no reason has been given yet (or any insight on if he jumped or was pushed), Belgian designer Kris Van Assche – who recently left Dior Homme (see below) – has already been named as his replacement.
Louis Vuitton menswear: Kim Jones out, Virgil Abloh in
British designer Kim Jones was artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear for seven years. Before that, Jones was creative director at British brand Alfred Dunhill, and was named Menswear Designer of the Year by the British Fashion Council in 2009 and 2011. But it was at Vuitton that Jones really found his stride, turning the men’s division into the fastest growing part of the company, and helping Vuitton to become the biggest fashion house on the planet, worth a cool £20.3 billion (Dh104.65bn) by May last year. He did this by melding high fashion with casualwear, culminating in the controversial – but sold-out – collaboration with street label Supreme last year, which brought Louis Vuitton to the attention of a whole new generation.
Fittingly for a house that started designing high-end luggage, Jones also looked to travel for inspiration, bringing global elements to all his collections, which were greeted with delight from the press and public alike, such as his Masai-inspired collection and Japanese-style bomber jackets. Since announcing his departure from Vuitton in January, Jones has been linked to several positions and was widely touted to take over Burberry from Christopher Bailey. However, in mid-March, he was named as the new artistic director of menswear at Dior Homme. Expectations are that he will bring the same disruptive tone to his new role.
Back at Louis Vuitton meanwhile, Virgil Abloh – who has just been announced as its new artistic director for menswear – is the new kid on the block. Largely unknown, he launched his Off-White label just three years ago, yet has made it one of the most talked-about emerging labels. With no formal training in fashion, Abloh studied engineering before gaining a master’s in architecture, after which he became a DJ. This led to a meeting with Kanye West, who hired him as creative consultant. In 2006, Abloh interned at Fendi (taking West with him), and there met the man who would become his future boss: Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton’s chairman and chief executive.
Abloh’s uncompromising yet refreshing blend of high style and streetwear has kept him consistently one step ahead of the curve, and yet his appointment to head up menswear for the 164-year-old Vuitton has caught many in the industry off guard. Is this the start of a new era? Will Abloh take Vuitton into unknown territory? Or will he be the natural successor to Jones, who started the luxury label on the streetwear path. While possessed of a great talent, he is, in many ways, an unknown entity, so only time will tell if Abloh can survive the huge pressure that comes with such a high-profile role. One thing is certain: with 1.6 million Instagram followers, Abloh is sure to bring Louis Vuitton to a whole new crowd.
Dior Homme: Kris Van Assche out, Kim Jones in
Van Assche was head of Dior Homme for an astonishing 11 years, until he announced his departure from the house last month. With a flawless pedigree in menswear, he started as an assistant to Hedi Slimane at Yves Saint Laurent menswear, and when Slimane defected to Christian Dior to launch Dior Homme in 2000, Van Assche went with him, finally taking over the creative director mantle when Slimane left in 2007. Cut from the same cloth as Slimane, Van Assche has continued an aesthetic first laid out in 2000 – of sparsely cut clothes that focus on a slender silhouette.
Burberry: Christopher Bailey out, Riccardo Tisci in
Bailey started as the right-hand man to Tom Ford before moving to Burberry 17 years ago. Under then-chief executive Angela Ahrendts, Bailey found a kindred spirit, and together they set about turning the brand from an ailing house plagued by loutish connotations into a powerhouse, with a 2017 profit of £462 million. Already creative director, in 2014, Bailey was handed Ahrendts’ former role of chief executive, giving him complete control over the company. Bailey chose to focus on the very Britishness of Burberry, unashamedly taking inspiration from facets of life in the United Kingdom, such as artist Henry Moore and even the weather.
Through his savvy grasp of social-media use – projects such as Art of the Trench saw real people, rather than models, dressed in the brand – as well as a knack for spotting the Next Big Thing (both Oscar-winner actor Eddie Redmayne and supermodel Cara Delevingne starred in early advertising campaigns), Bailey managed to transform Burberry from fusty to relevant, fresh and exciting. Since announcing his departure, Bailey has not been linked with any other roles.
Italian designer Riccardo Tisci, best known for his 12-year tenure at Givenchy, has now been appointed to lead Burberry. Having studied at Central Saint Martins in London, Tisci moved to Paris at the age of 30 to head the couture house of Givenchy, which he skilfully guided from Parisian chic to a darker, more gothic mood. Preferring leather over tulle, Tisci produced sublime couture collections, as well at using his numerous famous friends to keep the label in the spotlight, such as designing the 2011 cover and tour wardrobe for Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne album. High-profile friends, such as Naomi Campbell, Madonna, Nicki Minaj and Kim Kardashian (who wore Givenchy couture for her wedding to West), helped bring his clothes to a wider audience, so it will be interesting to see how he melds high-octane sex appeal with the wholesome Britishness of Burberry.
Celine: Phoebe Philo out; Hedi Slimane in
A designer who instinctively knows what women actually want to wear, Phoebe Philo started at Chloe under Stella McCartney, before taking over the head role when the former stepped aside to start her own label. In 2007, Philo took over as creative head at Celine, and spent the next decade carefully repositioning it as the house of a constantly evolving collection of perfectly cut trouser suits, understated dresses and quirky – yet luxuriously wearable – elements such as twisted tank tops and loose silky pants. Named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in 2014, Philo has a style that is never easy to pin down, but is indefinably beautiful, so we are keen to see where she goes next.
Despite being 50 years old in July, Hedi Slimane remains fashion’s enfant terrible, refusing to be pigeonholed. He started as an assistant at Louis Vuitton, and in 1996 Slimane was hand-picked by Pierre Berge to be director of the men’s division at Yves Saint Laurent, where Slimane first experimented with the skinny silhouette that would become his trademark. He left YSL (turning down Jil Sander in the process) to launch Dior Homme, where his severe new cuts were so in demand that Karl Lagerfeld shed multiple kilos to wear them.
By 2007, however, Slimane was off again, returning to his side career of photography, but in 2011 he was lured back to YSL, this time as head of womenswear. He immediately changed the company name, relocated the studio to Los Angeles, reinstated couture, ditched old customers for millennials and made Saint Laurent the hottest name in fashion. Despite booming sales and creative control, Slimane abruptly walked out in 2016, returning to photography and music. January saw him named as Philo’s successor at Celine, with the immediate announcement he would be launching the label’s first menswear collection. What can we expect? A rebellious attitude and, no doubt, a surge in sales.
Givenchy: Ricardo Tisci out, Clare Waight Keller in
The first woman to head Givenchy, Waight Keller is also the only designer at the house to have met the founder, Hubert de Givenchy, who passed away earlier this year. Only the second woman to lead a major LVMH house (alongside Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior), Waight Keller was appointed in May last year, five months after Tisci’s departure. Starting as a stylist for Calvin Klein, Waight Keller joined the womenswear studio at Gucci, before moving to Pringle as artistic director in 2006.
She was named Designer of the Year in 2007 by the Scottish Fashion Awards in recognition of her work. In 2011, she accepted the artistic directorship role at Chloé in Paris, and there honed a feminine style that proved a success with customers. Now at Givenchy, she is responsible for ready-to-wear and couture, with her debut couture show in January sending out menswear for the first time.