What the hell is going on with fashion? I’ve asked myself that question so many times over the past few years—especially in 2016—but the shitshow really hit the fans these past few weeks. Maybe it has something to do with Donald Trump becoming President…
Riccardo Tisci left Givenchy. Clare Waight Keller left Chloé. Even Alexandra Shulman left British Vogue after 25 years as editor-in-chief. Proenza Schouler’s leaving New York Fashion Week for Paris, and shifting to the couture schedule. Rodarte, too. All these brands (Tommy Hilfiger, Rachel Comey, Rebecca Minkoff) are suddenly hosting their Fall presentations in Los Angeles instead of New York. Vera Wang is doing a film instead a runway show. Franca Sozzani—perhaps the last beacon of creativity in big publishing—has passed away. Anne Slowey left Elle this week after nearly two decades on staff. Nicholas Coleridge is jumping off the Condé Nast ship, never mind all that talk that Apple could be eyeing the publisher. Karl Lagerfeld’s rumored to be ill. The list goes on.
With designers doing see-now, buy-now, nobody knows what season it is anymore. Everybody’s giving up. The industry seems like it’s caving in on itself. I haven’t bought clothes in almost a year, and I write about this stuff. For me, the departure of Tisci crystallized the movement we’ve seen away from big fashion houses to the cult of designer personalities. Riccardo was Givenchy. Hedi was Saint Laurent. Phoebe is Céline. Why not do their own labels instead? Money and infrastructure, obviously, but maybe people still care about being part of a legacy. And to be honest, the average consumer probably doesn’t know the name of the designer creating their brand-name bag, they just care about the brand name.
Of course, there have been some exciting new replacements at big houses recently—namely, Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior and Bouchra Jarrar at Lanvin. Girl power! Then there’s Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga, and Raf Simons for Calvin, the latter of which is an appointment in a league of its own. We’ve started to see the new CK branding unfold, and everyone’s eagerly anticipating Simons’ Fall runway debut.
But back to Givenchy, because I’m just wondering who is possibly left to take over these big brands. Alber Elbaz, Peter Dundas, and Peter Copping have all become free agents in the past year, but my bet is none of them are looking for that kind of gig right now. And then, with all the comings and goings lately, I feel like that level of second-tier designers—those lesser-known talents on the verge of greatness—has largely been pillaged already. Who’s left? Names like Simon Porte Jacquemus, Craig Green, and Simone Rocha come to mind, but I think this next generation of talent is more interested in building up their own brands than one founded by someone over a century ago.
Perhaps LVMH will look to the model of Gucci, who promoted Alessandro Michele from within to revive the brand, despite his being a largely unknown designer before his appointment; or Gvasalia, who was more of an industry-kept secret until he was tapped by Balenciaga. No-name or relatively unknown designers are eager to please and more likely to take orders from power players on the business side. Plus, they’re more unpredictable. And I don’t know if fashion needs more unpredictability now or more stability, but it needs something.