A few months ago, Paddy Power – home of all things high fashion – asked its punters: What Will Paula Reed Do Next? Reed had just left her job as fashion director of Harvey Nichols, and Paddy Power were straight on to the news, asking the public to bet on her next move. Back in 2011, they also took bets on who would succeed John Galliano at Christian Dior. Welcome to the weird world of fashion today, where the job situations of designers and industry insiders have become entertainment fodder for the masses. Paddy Power’s newest ‘fashion special’? The next H&M collaboration. (Hermes is currently 500/1 and Prada 5/1.)
"Pity the designer who needs a few seasons to settle into his or her new gig. We want amazing and we want it NOW."
People change jobs. It’s not exactly a novel concept. But over the last couple of years, fashion’s revolving doors have started spinning faster and faster, and houses are picking designers off the conveyor belt and placing them back on it with intensifying speed. Maybe it’s a symptom of fashion’s frenzied obsession with the new or the result of our ever-shorter attention span. Pity the designer who needs a few seasons to settle into his or her new gig. We want amazing and we want it NOW. (You also need to be as amazing as the founding designer, but you can’t be too similar. Or too different.)
As Suzy Menkes noted last year of fashion’s musical chairs, “Caught in this maelstrom are the designers. By their nature artistic and fragile people, they see themselves treated like commodities, bought and dispensed with as the corporate house pleases.” One year on, and not much has changed. In a way, fashion has become a warped kind of coliseum, where designers are pegged against each other in the arena while the suits (and the rest of the industry, to some extent) decide their fate with a casual thumbs up or down. As soon as someone leaves/is rumoured to leave/dies/gets the boot, the vultures start circling. There’s a growing feeling that people revel in all the drama and salacious gossip with gleeful and quite unbecoming excitement.
This year gave certainly everyone plenty to gossip about. After sixteen years at Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs has left to focus on taking his own label public and in March next year, Nicolas Ghesquière will present his first collection for Vuitton. While Jacobs certainly leaves behind an impressive body of work and has built LV’s ready-to-wear from scratch, Ghesquière has one of the sweeter deals of designers being handed the reins to an old house: he won’t have half a century or more of collections by a founding designer resting on his shoulders.
In other moves on fashion’s increasingly complex chessboard, 2013 also saw Nicola Formichetti leave Mugler for Diesel. Thierry Mugler, however, is back as creative advisor at, um, Mugler. Jason Wu is in at Hugo Boss. Mulberry are currently without a creative director. Stuart Vevers is heading to Coach and J.W. Anderson is taking over from him at Loewe. And after Christian Lacroix’s one-off couture collection for Schiaparelli, Marco Zanini has been plucked from Rochas to head up the house that has been out of action since the fifties.
"Ghesquière has one of the sweeter deals of designers being handed the reins to an old house: he won’t have half a century or more of collections by a founding designer resting on his shoulders."
Aside from all these changes, two things stand out from this year’s designer news: Jil Sander leaving her eponymous brand for the third time and Ann Demeulemeester announcing in hand-written notes to editors that she too is leaving her label. Shortly before her departure, Jil Sander spoke to Grazia about her growing discontent for the current state of fashion: "The pace of the collections, the luxury goods conglomerates, who rationalise production and retail procedures on a global scale and the sheer amount of fashion brands makes it more and more difficult for individual voices to be heard."
As designers, Sander and Jil are both uncompromising in their vision, working on honing their existing universe rather than serving up completely new worlds or playing to trends. Perhaps they find themselves at odds with today’s fashion landscape and its insatiable need for a new fix. Perhaps they decided to get off what sometimes feels like a runaway train. Here’s hoping that someone finds out how to work the brakes a little bit come next year.