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People, Fashion & Trends

The Ruthless Designer Shuffle

By Sofia Celeste 10 February 2016

MILAN, ITALY - If you want to play with the big boys, you need to have thick skin. This is as true for the major league baseball, as it is for fashion, where designers are swapped relentlessly and as casually as baseball cards.

At the advent of the Chinese New Year, we saw Stefano Pilati leave Ermenegildo Zegna and Alessandro Sartori leave Paris-based menswear Berluti and take his place.

Sartori, who worked for Berluti for five years, isn't a stranger to Zegna. He grew up in Biella, where Zegna's headquarters are located and he joined the company in 1989 after graduating from design school. Sartori later led Z Zegna's design team for eight years before moving on to Berluti.

And while Sartori's path - due to hertiage and experience - may have been written in the stars - other designers have been on a more unforgiving road.

At the end of 2014, Gucci fired Frida Giannini after ten years, and replaced her with Gucci accessories designer Alessandro Michele.

The year that followed was marked by a frenetic game of musical chairs: Raf Simons left Christian Dior, Alexander Wang exited Balenciaga and Alber Elbaz was reportedly pushed out of Lanvin.

In Italy we saw Peter Dundas leave Pucci for Roberto Cavalli, and to the industry's surprise be replaced by Massimo Giorgetti, who is known for his upbeat, street style, urban brand MSGM.

Dundas told Fairplay that he had been in talks with Cavalli for years, before leaving Pucci. But Pucci heir and CEO Laudomia Pucci attributed the shift to Giorgetti's Italian roots.

“I strongly believe it’s important for Italian historic brands to have someone who, being Italian, can really understand the Italian lifestyle and certain ideas we have to bring back,” Pucci said in an interview with WWD.

So should designers take it personally when they are replaced? Does it directly reflect on their talent?

"Brands want results right away and don't want to wait. It is all about instant gratification for many brands and consumers," said Jessica Michault, fashion expert and Editor-in-Chief of fashion bible Antidote Magazine.

In a lot of ways, Michault explained, technology is to blame. In the fast media era that we live in, companies are able to track a designers' appeal through social media and online shopping sites - a litmus test that may or may not be a true judge of a designer's bravura.

"If you have a weak following, it doesn't necessarily mean your image won't produce sales," said Roberta Benaglia, CEO, Style Capital SGR, a private equity fund, at the Decoded Fashion Milan Summit last November.

For others, the proof is in the financial pudding. In an age where luxury companies have less potential to expand, as emerging markets become saturated and growth begins to ebb in countries like Russia and China where firms placed big bets, sales are really the bottom line.

"I think brands are realizing that growth is more difficult to come by. Designers are feeling the pressure," Luca Solca, Managing Director and Luxury Goods Sector Head at Exane BNP Paribas told Fairplay in an interview.

Business of Fashion reported that three years after Hedi Slimane took the creative reins of Yves Saint Laurent in 2014, the business drove €707 million in sales revenue for parent company Kering, up 27 percent on 2013. Céline, the website said, saw its sales surge upwards of €750 million in sales for LVMH, after Phoebe Philo took the reins.

"Those that are credited with excellent results like Slimane and Philo, are in high demand and can name their price," said Solca, who is one of the most respected luxury analysts in the industry and who writes a regular column for BOF.

"Those that are perceived not to have made a big difference -- like Simmons and Pilati -- are let go," he added.

And experts agree that the Year of the Monkey will not be any easier on designers. Creatives are currently fighting for survival in the unforgiving world of fashion, where season-less shows, recently announced by Tom Ford and Burberry, will eliminate the six-month wait for catwalk ensembles to appear in stores.

"I do think that technology does have something to do with it in terms of the immediacy of everything. Social media sites and in particular, Instagram, have made it all about 'see now, buy now,'" Michault said.

 

 



Sofia Celeste
FAIRPLAY Editor-in-Chief

When she is not hunting down the latest in tech and fashion, Sofia Celeste is scouting artisan talent for her online magazine bacoluxury.com. Born in the US and raised on the Pacific Island of Guam, she went on to write for Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal. Her work is now regularly published in top fashion publications NOWFASHION and WWD.

MILAN, ITALY - If you want to play with the big boys, you need to have thick skin. This is as true for the major league baseball, as it is for fashion, where designers are swapped relentlessly and as casually as baseball cards.

At the advent of the Chinese New Year, we saw Stefano Pilati leave Ermenegildo Zegna and Alessandro Sartori leave Paris-based menswear Berluti and take his place.

Sartori, who worked for Berluti for five years, isn't a stranger to Zegna. He grew up in Biella, where Zegna's headquarters are located and he joined the company in 1989 after graduating from design school. Sartori later led Z Zegna's design team for eight years before moving on to Berluti.

And while Sartori's path - due to hertiage and experience - may have been written in the stars - other designers have been on a more unforgiving road.

At the end of 2014, Gucci fired Frida Giannini after ten years, and replaced her with Gucci accessories designer Alessandro Michele.

The year that followed was marked by a frenetic game of musical chairs: Raf Simons left Christian Dior, Alexander Wang exited Balenciaga and Alber Elbaz was reportedly pushed out of Lanvin.

In Italy we saw Peter Dundas leave Pucci for Roberto Cavalli, and to the industry's surprise be replaced by Massimo Giorgetti, who is known for his upbeat, street style, urban brand MSGM.

Dundas told Fairplay that he had been in talks with Cavalli for years, before leaving Pucci. But Pucci heir and CEO Laudomia Pucci attributed the shift to Giorgetti's Italian roots.

“I strongly believe it’s important for Italian historic brands to have someone who, being Italian, can really understand the Italian lifestyle and certain ideas we have to bring back,” Pucci said in an interview with WWD.

So should designers take it personally when they are replaced? Does it directly reflect on their talent?

"Brands want results right away and don't want to wait. It is all about instant gratification for many brands and consumers," said Jessica Michault, fashion expert and Editor-in-Chief of fashion bible Antidote Magazine.

In a lot of ways, Michault explained, technology is to blame. In the fast media era that we live in, companies are able to track a designers' appeal through social media and online shopping sites - a litmus test that may or may not be a true judge of a designer's bravura.

"If you have a weak following, it doesn't necessarily mean your image won't produce sales," said Roberta Benaglia, CEO, Style Capital SGR, a private equity fund, at the Decoded Fashion Milan Summit last November.

For others, the proof is in the financial pudding. In an age where luxury companies have less potential to expand, as emerging markets become saturated and growth begins to ebb in countries like Russia and China where firms placed big bets, sales are really the bottom line.

"I think brands are realizing that growth is more difficult to come by. Designers are feeling the pressure," Luca Solca, Managing Director and Luxury Goods Sector Head at Exane BNP Paribas told Fairplay in an interview.

Business of Fashion reported that three years after Hedi Slimane took the creative reins of Yves Saint Laurent in 2014, the business drove €707 million in sales revenue for parent company Kering, up 27 percent on 2013. Céline, the website said, saw its sales surge upwards of €750 million in sales for LVMH, after Phoebe Philo took the reins.

"Those that are credited with excellent results like Slimane and Philo, are in high demand and can name their price," said Solca, who is one of the most respected luxury analysts in the industry and who writes a regular column for BOF.

"Those that are perceived not to have made a big difference -- like Simmons and Pilati -- are let go," he added.

And experts agree that the Year of the Monkey will not be any easier on designers. Creatives are currently fighting for survival in the unforgiving world of fashion, where season-less shows, recently announced by Tom Ford and Burberry, will eliminate the six-month wait for catwalk ensembles to appear in stores.

"I do think that technology does have something to do with it in terms of the immediacy of everything. Social media sites and in particular, Instagram, have made it all about 'see now, buy now,'" Michault said.

 

 



Sofia Celeste
FAIRPLAY Editor-in-Chief

When she is not hunting down the latest in tech and fashion, Sofia Celeste is scouting artisan talent for her online magazine bacoluxury.com. Born in the US and raised on the Pacific Island of Guam, she went on to write for Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal. Her work is now regularly published in top fashion publications NOWFASHION and WWD.

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