How the dance of the chairs of creative directors works | The USA Print

At the end of January, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) announced the financial results of a year, 2022, extraordinarily rich in profits despite the sorrows. The staggering numbers are the kind that spur investment in times of superinflation and warm the cold hearts of shareholders. Of course, they also provide disturbing reading in a business that is merciless with its human capital. He holding company Frenchman who commands with an iron fist Bernard Arnault never breaks down the earnings of his assets, but the occasion deserved to poke his chest: the fashion and leather goods division alone had a turnover of 38.6 billion euros in sales (22% more than in the previous year ), of which 20,000 million correspond to what was dispatched by its flagship, Louis Vuitton. A firm with a women’s division for a long time in permanent rethinking and a men’s collection headless since November 2021, after the death of Virgil Abloh. The sign that the executive leadership was perhaps waiting for: you teach without a stellar designer at the helm that maintains the economic pull, yes, it is possible.

That the commercial —and even sociocultural— relevance of a brand does not need the attached name of a creative director is a message that sometimes seems evident in 2023, as shown by the historical figures of the banner of the canvas monogram. The first to reach a record that, predictably, will further unleash the ambition of its rivals, as happened in 2017 when Gucci overcame the barrier, also psychological, of 6,000 million euros. That was a miracle, let us remember, worked by Alessandro Michele, the creator who at the end of last year fell, according to some sources, for not winning the long-awaited 10,000 million from the house of Italian origin, the last frontier to overcome according to what was imposed by Chanel and Dior to date. The one that awaits his replacement, Sabato De Sarno, announced by Kering curiously two days after the LVMH group made its phenomenal report public, is outrageous, although it has been proven that social dynamics continue to respond well to the appointment of new directors. creative in the market, if only by inertia. De Sarno gives the type of designer that the industry prefers today to head its posters: low profile, virgin to the media, accustomed to teamwork, the ego tamed as a second in command who gets the job done (in principle). Cut from the same pattern, Matthieu Blazy rose like this at Bottega Veneta.

Vanessa Redgrave stars in the Burberry campaign in the new stage of Daniel Lee. Photo: Tyrone LeBon for Burberry.

The creative direction of a firm, especially in the arena of exclusivity, is a risky position that, paradoxically, increasingly demands the sacrifice of their artistic talent to those who occupy it. Of course, there have always been designers at the head of other companies, but the position, as we know it, did not come up until 1993, conceived to suit Tom Ford when he took over the collections of ready-to-wear, accessories, cosmetics and even the global image of a Gucci immersed in an internal war between its main shareholder, François Pinault, and the minority partner, Bernard Arnault (who would end up losing it). The success of the formula led the LVMH president to transfer the strategy to the labels he had in his portfolio: John Galliano was recruited to rescue Givenchy in 1995, replaced by Alexander McQueen a year later, while handing the Gibraltarian the kingdom of Dior in reward for his efficiency, and he bet on Marc Jacobs when, in the image and likeness of his biggest rival, he decided to turn Louis Vuitton into a genuine fashion brand. Everything seemed to be flowing until, starting in 2010, the situation became complicated: luxury began an unprecedented escalation to review its business model in the face of the steamroller of mass consumption fashion (increased volume and speed of production, greater number of annual collections to meet the ongoing demand for novelty) and designers became executives, Excel sheets instead of sketchbooks.

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“Right now, the role of a creative director is no longer limited to designing collections and developing product lines, but must know how to represent the values ​​of the brand and apply their vision to the tools with which it communicates with the world. ”, exposes Valentina Maggi, head of the design division of the consultancy Floriane de Saint-Pierre et Associés, which advises firms in Paris, Milan, London and New York on issues of recruiting talent. Fierce competition, social networks and new digital platforms and a definitely global consumer have reformulated, in effect, a task that prioritizes as never before the conceptualization of everything that a label means and that it is no longer possible to exercise from divismo alone . In today’s increasingly numerous design teams, with areas of merchandisingcollaborations and celebrities, there is no room left for prima donnas capricious.

Louis Vuitton design for the autumn-winter 2022-2023 season. Photo:

A favorite pimp of a business sadly accustomed to squeezing talent, creative direction nonetheless seems to remain the aspirational position for any designer. It is the position that allowed Raf Simons to maintain his eponymous brand, take the money and run from Ruff or Research to Dior, passing through Jil Sander until reaching the co-direction of Prada, where he is called to be the heir of Miuccia (which is why he would have cast closing to his label last November). The one who has made Demna Gvasalia a household name via Balenciaga, so much so that he now appears even without a last name (off the radar after the controversy of his last campaign, which was accused of inciting child sexual exploitation, everything indicates that his future will depend on how his parade is received in the week of the ready-to-wear from Paris). The one who has made Maria Grazia Chiuri the first woman to lead Dior (part of the millionaire income from LVMH is her responsibility). The one who has brought the British of Afro-Caribbean descent Maximiliam Davis to Salvatore Ferragamo and Daniel Lee to Burberry. The one that entertains us, in short, as spectators of that frantic dance of hot chairs that, some expert analysts say, there is a will to stop.

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