Ditching Designers to Sell the Clothes

There is an interesting read on the business of maintaining fashion lines without their original designers in the WSJ today:

As luxury clothing begins to recover from an economic crisis that damped appetites for expensive goods, fashion houses are chipping away at the traditional model of all-powerful design chiefs that ruled for decades. Far from the unquestioned authority of famous designers such as Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton or Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, younger fashion houses are giving more power to the business side. The rationale: Clothes need to sell.

“Creativity has given way to product development,” says Christophe Rioux, director of the luxury and creation department at French business school ISC Paris School of Management. “Managers are trumping designers because what counts is profitability.”

Designer and creative director are interchangeable titles at most houses. But at Diesel they are now redefining creative director. He doesn’t have to draw, sew or execute any of the traditional craftsmanship of fashion. Rather, he must keep his finger on the pulse of trends and edit ideas—telling the design team what kind of look he wants in clothes, accessories or furniture.

For a fashion company, I would largely agree with Renzo Rosso on this. While there is certainly an interest in the artisanal aspect behind some brands, it is not why the majority of people buy into a line.

And on Martin Margiela:

Mr. Rosso began interviewing high-profile designers to replace him. But Mr. Rosso worried that a new designer would change the house’s image, so he decided to eliminate Mr. Margiela’s position and rely on the existing team.

“The consumer doesn’t care,” Mr. Rosso says, swiping a cigarette from a colleague. “They just want to see the right product at the right moment.”

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