The Big Quit: The Fashion Industry Drought As Creative Directors Pack Their Bags 


Creative directors have been monopolizing headlines over the last fashion year, as firing and hiring seem to be in their springtime, and the industry appears to be being drained of beloved names. Whilst revitalisation, turnover, and an influx of new thinkers are only valuable, it would appear there is an unusually high number of creative directors leaving their offices, and abruptly walking out on the brands they have been nurturing. Is this a mere coincidence, or is there something more linear happening behind closed doors, that means long-standing fashion directors are feeling forced to leave, and turn anew?

The freshest news is that Gabriela Hearst is set to leave Chloe, with her final collection being that upcoming in September. Hearst, who has headed the brand for the last three years, alongside her eponymous collection, is said to be leaving to focus more intently on her own namesake label. Her legacy at Chloe, although short-lived, would definitely be her focus on sustainable practice, which led her to remodel the collections into chapters, each themed around a different environmental solution. Daniel Fletcher exited Fiorucci in much the same fashion, with the reasoning that he too wants to focus on his own brand. Fletcher, like Hearst, only lasted around 3 years at Fiorucci. He was highly commended for helping to transition the brand into something so much more than just T-shirt and sweatshirts, and for developing a harmonious ready-to-wear collection that gave the house a more substantial footing in the fashion industry. Despite receiving much applause and recognition for revitalizing the brands they briefly headed, both were curiously adamant about leaving. 

Elsewhere, creative director duo Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huesby left Trussardi earlier this year following the exit of CEO Sebastian Suhl. The pair had joined 3 years ago under the guise they were going to lead the brand’s revival, but with so many exits, and the entire board of directors resigning on the 2nd of March, the brand seemed to be sinking amidst internal disagreements. Not dissimilarly, Rhuigi Villaseñor, who founded the LA luxury upstart Rhude, and was then appointed creative director of Bally just two years ago, also exited his role swiftly after showcasing just two collections. Villaseñor’s celebrity ties built through his own brand had added a sense of hype and fascination around his appointment at Bally, and he did quite deftly reawaken this somewhat backgrounded fashion house. Although the split seemed to be amicable, some sceptics have read into Villaseñor’s tweets and social media posting and insinuated that he perhaps felt compromised under Bally, and seems to be happier and more comfortable focusing on his own direction. Charles de Villamorin left Rochas in April also, and although the split was reported as cordial, onlookers were already talking about how Villamorin’s more playful style wasn’t necessarily melding with the Rochas elegance that had been coined by his predecessor Alessandro Dell’Acqua. Upon writing this article, it was also announced that Marco Bizzarri, who has captained Gucci for the last 8 years, will be leaving in the approaching September – the bleed continues to run thick whilst we report on it. 

GLITCH also recently spoke about the restructuring of arguably the world’s most influential fashion magazine, Vogue. Enniful’s removal from British Vogue, which has been staged sceptically as somewhat of a promotion – away from Editor and into a more global internal role – has sparked conversations over discordance in the partnership. Although lacking in evidence, it isn’t too far-fetched to imagine that the Anna Wintour empire would be very particular over how the brand is managed, and Vogue has infamously been very strict when it comes to their image making.

Perhaps here lies the clue in why such names are fleeing, or being chased out of the big houses so quickly. Although being appointed creative director of a large resounding fashion name, steeped in a rich reputation, could seem like a career peak, it likely isn’t as easy a role to fulfil, despite years of craft honing. As a visionary, designer and creative director, strength and merit is deciphered from the campaigns and collections produced under your instruction, and when fashion houses are hedged in by such concrete and precise history and regulation, the ability to create can be dramatically constricted. Needless to say, being a budding creative, limited in creating, is likely to be a tiresome exercise. Do these numerous case histories, therefore, point towards a widespread conflict occurring between the creative director role and the brand owners of the fashion house name? 

Historically, of course, fashion houses didn’t have such delineated internal structuring. It would seem that the way the modern world has structured and split the fashion industry job titles is provoking tension, particularly for the more traditional brands whose aesthetics have quite literally been cemented in stone for decades. In the past, the founder was also the creative director, creating under a label of their own name, and calling all the shots, from design decisions, to commercial decisions, to casting decisions. And, in fact, this is what many industry professionals are leaving with the intention to do; many creative directors want to retake the helm of a label entirely, and the easiest way to do this is by going at it independently. It seems there has been a surge of interest in developing authentically under your own namesake label, from the ground up, rather than creating underneath a presently named and famed title. 

So, whilst the industry may be bleeding creative directors left, right, and centre, upon realizing the intricacies of the modern fashion house model, it will be interesting to see how brands adapt. For one, we are certainly beginning to see more buzz names hired in creative director roles, rather than those with an education and background in the industry. Pharrell Williams is a prime example of this industry shift, albeit a record producer and singer by occupation, he has recently taken over the ship for none other than the prestigious LVMH. 

At GLITCH we are certainly intrigued to see the personalized labels of already esteemed creators grow and thrive over the coming year. It is likely we will see collections that are more enshroud in personality, as the lines are now unbound to a traditional name. Of note is the upcoming line by Phoebe Philo, ex-director of Celine, which has been much awaited and attracted excitement from industry insiders. Launching in September, the collection will likely inspire much debate and comparison to her work under the famous Celine title. Whilst the drought of creative directors could be lamented, on the flip side, hopefully, this industry change will give rise to more emerging namesake labels from designers who have already stolen the hearts of the public. And hopefully, the industry will adapt to these recent occurrences, and realise that they might have to slacken the creative reigns that bind their team so that the traditional fashion houses can also adapt to the times. 

Written by Hebe Street from GLITCH Magazine


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