What’s up with all these brands switching out their creative directors?

What’s up with all these brands switching out their creative directors?

by Juliette Eleuterio
4 min

One moment you’re in and the next you’re out. Fashion loves a big announcement, and what’s bigger news than the appointment of a new creative director? The announcement of their departure from the brand perhaps.

Lately it seems as though those holding the esteemed position of creative director have been getting the boot way too early for their own good, with most recently Gabriela Hearst leaving Chloé after three years, the GmbH duo Benjamin Alexander Huseby and Serhat Işik having left Trussardi after three seasons, and most shockingly Ludovic de Saint Sernin only lasting a singular season at Ann Demeulemeester. Surely one season isn’t enough to test someone’s success at a house, so why exactly is the directorship ending so soon?

@serhatisik__ ©

While the Instagram post will make the whole split look like an amicable decision, brought upon us by the fact that both parties will focus on different ventures, but spoiler alert, the story is always much more complicated than that.

Another excuse that gets thrown around a lot was that the collections under a certain creative director simply “weren’t selling”. While that may be true in some cases, only a couple of seasons is not enough for a designer to prove the success of their creation, sales-wise. Take Tom Ford at Gucci for example, arguably one of the most successful creative director appointments in the history of fashion. Ford, although his vision was radical, didn’t become an instant, overnight financial success. In fact, it took him more than a couple of seasons to turn Gucci into the financial powerhouse that it is today.

@anndemeulemeester_official ©

Creative directors have been fired for all types of reasons: bad temper, missing deadlines, finding themselves in the middle of controversy… all of which usually remains an internal secret. But when new designers are let go so early on in their tenure, it feels as though the company or brand never had the structure in the first place to support them.

Oftentimes when a new creative director is appointed, there’s a whole shakeup that happens at the brand, from a brand new roster of ateliers workers, most times picked by the new head designer, to a brand new business strategy mustered up with the CEO, board members and other non-creative employees. Of course, when the plan that should have been set up by the business-leaning workers doesn’t work, the blame is then shifted onto the creative director. 

@tomford ©

It’s a classic tale: brands will never admit to poor management and creative directors are blamed for not having “sellable” collections. It is expected that a creative director presents a financially profitable collection, even though the creative director is more often than not forced into taking care of the business side of a brand when their true passion and expertise lie within design. 

If anything, creative directors should not be held to such a high standard. They should not carry the weight of the success of the brand on their shoulders. They should not be the face of the brand, rather only a fraction of it clearly recognized by aesthetics rather than by yearly revenue slips.

It’s like a big game of musical chairs, and it’s the Bernard Arnauds and the François-Henri Pinaults of the world controlling the music. Who will be the next designer to get the seat stolen from under them is something only time will tell.

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