Anonymous said: In the last episode of the most recent season of The Fashion Fund, Anna Wintour mentioned something along the lines of designers having to take on a celebrity image in order for their brands to be sustainable. Do you believe it true that a designer must attain somewhat of a celebrity status in order for his/her brand to be successful in this day & age?
I agree. I’m writing a post for The Style Con about this very topic so I don’t want to give too much away at this point, but if the recent “unmasking” of Matthieu Blazy as Maison Martin Margiela’s lead designer has demonstrated anything, it’s that anonymity as some form of cultural cool has become a thing of the past. Is it just plain pretentious now? Do designers, as Anna Wintour says, have to learn how to market not only their clothes, but themselves?
I’m really fascinated by this whole idea that designers must become celebrities in their own right. There are some designers who would have been celebrities no matter what, like Stella McCartney, the daughter of a Beatle. And there are designers like Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs who became celebrities because the timing was right, and they made such bold statements with their clothes and catwalk presentations that the public simply became fascinated by the fantasia. Marc also modelled in his own Bang fragrance ad campaign. Designers like Karl Lagerfeld, on the other hand, have such incredibly overbearing personalities and say the craziest things that becoming a celebrity was inevitable. Then, of course, there are celebrities who move into fashion design because they already know how to market themselves. Victoria Beckham is now winning design awards over Tom Ford. It’s depressing, yes, but that’s the kind of industry we have now.
Think about some of the designers who have reached celebrity status (or, to a lesser extent, “industry darling” status), and how social media has propelled them. Would Fausto Puglisi have become creative director of Ungaro had Anna Dello Russo not worn his gladiator dresses everywhere? The street style beasts, like, invented him. Would Jason Wu have been hired by Hugo Boss if images of Michelle Obama’s dresses hadn’t been sent all over cyberspace? What about Alexander Wang at Balenciaga? J.W Anderson at Loewe? Did anyone care about Loewe before he joined? I’ll leave it at that. My article will be published on The Style Con next week!
PS. As Alexander Fury said, it helps if the designer is good-looking. Matthieu Blazy is superbly handsome. *heart eyes*
Anonymous said: what do you think about tory burch?
She’s great. I mean, her designs aren’t going to change the future of fashion, but I don’t think anybody ever expected her to become so successful in such a short amount of time. Especially by selling something like ballet flats. The luxury fashion crowd sort of turned their noses up at her, and then she became a billionaire while they went broke making art…and it was sort of like, “Oh.”
vogueltalia said: Hung! Thoughts on Lemaire leaving Hermès?
Let’s think of Hermes like a pop group—Destiny’s Child, perhaps? Beyonce would be the Birkin, Kelly would be the, well, Kelly; and the other member(s) would represent all watchstraps, scarves, and small leather goods that bring in money. Ready-to-wear would be a back-up dancer that does its own thing in the background, making some interesting moves every now and then (and perhaps a camera will zoom in during the most impressive moments) but never the star of the show. This is a bizarre analogy, but you get the idea. RTW is never going to be a hugely important part of the Hermes empire.
Alexander Fury pretty much said it all. It’s just the next round in this game of fashion musical chairs, but Lemaire’s successor is going to have to accept that their RTW will forever play a supporting role to the leather goods and scarves. That’s the business model of Hermes (I wrote an article about how their Birkin and Kelly bags are constructed, if anyone wants to check it out). The designer, then, doesn’t really matter. Hermes isn’t Balenciaga, which needed a designer with cool factor like Alexander Wang. It’s not like Dior, either, which needed someone sensitive and cerebral like Raf Simons.
I am glad that Christophe Lemaire has decided to leave Hermes to focus on his own label (for the record, I’ve always LOVED his work, especially for Lacoste). Does Hermes deserve a full-time designer? I’m not sure. I can think of only two reasons why designers like Lemaire might accept a second job, on top of developing their namesake label. The first is for prestige, as working for Hermes automatically gives you credibility as a designer (that’s why Rick Owens joined French fur company Revillon). The second is simple: extra income, extra capital, extra opportunities to develop your first brand, the one that carries your name. Now he’s got both!
This turned into a longer answer than I’d expected. Sorry, I really need to learn the meaning of brevity. Anyway, I think a designer like Rick Owens would be cool for Hermes. Strange, but cool. He does amazing things with leather. Phoebe Philo, too. The Internet would explode.
Burberry Shareholder Revolt: Is Christopher Bailey Worth It?
The recent news of Christopher Bailey’s enormous pay package hurts my head. Maybe it’s because I’m a recent university graduate, which means I’m poor (or poor-adjacent), but it makes me sick to my stomach to see such an obscene amount of money being dangled in front of one person, regardless of their title, when Burberry’s production practices are dubious at best and wages are stagnating for everyone else in the fashion chain. I wrote an article for The Style Con about the volatile relationship between company executives and creative directors, and how designers were rechristened as creative directors in the 1990s to reflect a commercial shift in fashion. When LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault attempted to “steal” (as Domenico De Sole called it) Gucci in 1999, Tom Ford threatened to drop what is now known as the “Tom Bomb,” a clause in his contract that allowed his swift exit should Gucci come under new ownership.
In fashion it is commonly said that a designer is only as good as their last collection, and that there is always someone, somewhere, willing to do a lot more for a lot less in return. Christopher Bailey, who became Creative Director of Burberry in 2001, and was named Chief Executive Officer last October, is single-handedly proving the cynics wrong. Despite the fact that 53 per cent of shareholders voted against the company’s latest remuneration report, Bailey, 43, is set to become one of the wealthiest creative directors in the fashion industry. His latest pay package, including salary and stock options, is valued at up to £27 million.
Christopher Bailey’s pay package includes a £1.1 million base salary, a £440,000 annual allowance for an undisclosed purpose, and a one-off, performance-based grant of 500,000 shares, which is worth approximately £7 million in today’s market. Bailey also received 350,000 shares in 2010, and an additional one million shares in 2013 when he became CEO of the company, worth a combined £19 million. “The message to Burberry is loud and clear: multimillion-pound pay packages are obscene, unnecessary and will damage the economy in the long-term,” said Deborah Hargreaves, director of the High Pay Centre. “If those at the top are seen to grab such vast rewards while wages stagnate for everybody else, it completely undermines public faith in business.” Burberry Chairman Sir John Peace, however, defended the company’s generosity, citing Christopher Bailey’s aggressive push to the digital realm, and successful hauling and restructuring of brand licenses, as some of the key drivers to Burberry’s success. Moreover, he admitted that there have been many competing job offers coming Bailey’s way, and that to lose a CEO and creative director in one fell swoop would have been disastrous.
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Anonymous said: Even with the rise in attention on menswear, do you believe that it's still true that menswear designers need to branch off into womenswear as well in order to be successful?
Um, sort of. I can think of a few designers who make womenswear which is nowhere near as successful as their men’s lines, like Thom Browne and Paul Smith. On the other hand, there are designers who started in womenswear and have done really, really well in menswear, like Comme des Garcons (although I think the Shirt line makes more money than Homme Plus, or any of their billion other lines) and Prada. There are also designers who have produced menswear and womenswear concurrently with an even-ish level of success, like Rick Owens (I’m talking about his mainstream runway career). Finally, there are brands that have stopped menswear entirely, like Miu Miu, though it’s arguable that Miuccia Prada was simply exhausted…
This is a difficult question to answer because you need to qualify “success.” Are you talking about financial performance and profit? If so, it’s possible for menswear labels to survive without making women’s clothing, but probably only if you’re a specialist label like Zegna, Brioni or Canali. I can’t imagine most brands would survive. The ultimate reality is that clothing doesn’t yield much profit for either womenswear or menswear; designers need to sign licensing deals to become successful in the oldschool sense, ie. household names. I wrote about licensing on my Wordpress blog—click the link!
Anonymous said: is haute couture dead ?
Ergh, I’m sorry but I really hate this question. It’s moot. It’s just as pointless/annoying as asking, “Is fashion art?” because fashion writers never bring up anything new or interesting, and yet insist on continuing the conversation simply for the sake of it. We always talk about couture in crisis (or convalescence) in January and July, and it’s so repetitive. The Business of Fashion, for example, recently published an op-ed rather bluntly titled "Can Couture be Modern?" that discussed some of the ways in which couture might be considered modern, eg. Chanel’s couture sneakers and Raf Simons’s relaxed approach to historically rigid dressmaking. I get it. It’s great. So what?
I haven’t written about couture since February of this year, when I wrote "The Couture Circle Jerk" for The Style Con. I stand by what I said. I’m more interested in preserving and protecting the techniques that make couture possible, rather than the institution of couture itself. But of course the French love their titles, and couture is the greatest “fuck you” to China, where industry is booming but haute handcraft is never going to catch up (three cheers for French imperialism!). The best way to preserve couture technique is to work it into ready-to-wear, in the way that Mary Katrantzou and Lesage have collaborated, while keeping prices relatively affordable. I think it’s possible! Not sure how, exactly, but I’ll let the Chambre Syndicale figure it out.
Also, it’s become a worrying trend in fashion journalism to let socialites (I’d written this as socialists, lol) and couture clients have more page space than is necessary. Yes, I understand that they’re constantly in close proximity to the clothes, but I’m always skeptical when I have to read too much of a rich woman’s gabbling. Daphne Guinness in this Alexander Fury article, for example: “It was 200, 300 years’ worth of families that knew how to make lace, knew how to sew. These are industries. These are jobs. This is not just about rich people putting on something so that they can look better than everybody else.” Daphne’s family is made of money and she’s never had to work a day in her life. What does she know about having a job? Why don’t we hear more from the women who actually make couture? They’re contracted to work for hours on end, and yet they have to keep their opinions silent. Do they think couture is dead? I’ve love to hear their thoughts. That would give all of us some fresh perspective.
Swedish-born designer Anders Haal launched his womenswear and eyewear label in October 2013. After graduating from Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm, he worked with Ann-Sofie Back and became her long-time first designer. Anders is influenced by surf and sports and subversive iconography. BITE recently spoke to Anders Haal about his current collection–a site of cultural clash and realism.