Last week, three major European houses announced the appointment of new designers. Emanuel Ungaro hired Giles Deacon to replace Lindsay Lohan and Estrella Archs; Alexander McQueen hired Sarah Burton to replace the late Lee Alexander McQueen; and Hermès hired Christophe Lemaire to replace Jean Paul Gaultier, who will focus on his namesake label. Suzy Menkes saw this as a trend that meant “the era of the star designer picked to create buzz and shake up the system in a venerable house is over.” She believes:
The rise of interseason sales and of product diversity is putting into question the role of the designer superstar taking a bow at the end of a twice-yearly catwalk fashion show. Instead, the luxury industry wants to turn down the volume on big names, use a designer as global ambassador and focus on overall brand development.
But Cathy Horyn went out of her way to blog on Memorial Day weekend to disagree with her colleague. She believes the trend of hiring low-key designers isn’t necessarily a conscious decision houses are making to stifle the runway’s most eccentric walkers, but rather just what’s available right now.
You can’t beat the star power and energy of a Tom Ford, the ultimate multitasker, or a Christopher Bailey, who worked for Mr. Ford at Gucci before he went to Burberry, where he has gradually assumed more creative control as the British label has changed. The problem is there are just not enough of such hard-working, all-seeing individuals in the industry. With a number of companies now being run by equity-market managers, you can bet your bottom dollar that they would love to get their hands on an experienced design maestro — if more were available.
Is it true? Have all the best eccentrics gone lazy? Perhaps either emerging designers spend too much time fostering personality quirks in lieu of working hard, or too much time working hard in lieu of fostering personality quirks.