29 October 2015

Afterthoughts for a Departure

Alber Elbaz’s depature from Lanvin, along with Raf Simons from Dior and Alexander Wang from Balenciaga mean that something is happening in the industry that could either be a hit or miss.

Understandable, designers are expected to create collections throughout the course of the year at unfathomable rates as well as having to oversee a handful of campaigns and marketing tactics to not only able to design but also to make sure they bring in profit. For Dior, Simons was at least expected to go through six collections a year (meaning he was expected to show every six weeks or so, that’s not easy.) It was probably the same case with Wang who had his personal reasons of wanting to depart with his former house.
Now, Elbaz joins them, as his reasoning of departing is due to the difference that he wanted verses what the management of Lanvin wanted. And what makes it more of a shock to the industry is that Elbaz had been at Lanvin since 2001 and he revived the house from the dust, making it respectively one of the most profitable and loved names in the industry.
(He’s also a very sweet and adorable man.)

Elbaz had previously voiced his thoughts on the industry and the way it’s moving – “We designers, we started as couturiers, with dreams, with intuition, with feeling. We became creative directors, so we have to create, but mostly direction. We have to become image-markers, creating a buzz, making sure that it looks good in the pictures.” Which is quite understandable and logical, thinking from 10 seasons ago possibly when Elbaz first began at Lanvin, times have changed – it seems like designers now make collections on a whim to impress the public rather than to curb their own creativity. They must work in an age and society where it’s all about being fast and up to date, from social media and celebrity-play, it seems the industry has lost that magical touch. They’re robots.

“Everyone in fashion just needs a little more time,” he added.

It seems like to me that all these departures (and hopefully, not more, but one can never tell) are a very powerful reflection of a destructive industry. We as consumers are constantly so dissatisfied and houses are seen as just simple labels that need to work with the trends and not retain any form of history or beauty. This isn’t, however the first time it’s happened in the industry, with regards to John Galliano’s departure from Dior.

Tom Ford had departed from Gucci in 2003 causing a mass shock and fury since everyone thought that Gucci would fall off a slope without his direction. At Nina Ricci between the courses of 2003 and 2014 there were three different creative directors who only managed to survive roughly three years each to their own (Most contracts are only three years btw).
Chloe has Phoebe Philo who is rumoured to want to leave at the height of the house’s and her success, which is confusing everyone because it was simply too unbelievable that someone would want to walk away from a job that offers so much, yet is missing out on so much. Philo has claimed that she wanted to spend more time in nature – she probably wanted just a different, less hectic life.

Which is why I can respect Elbaz’s decision to leave – the creative process for a designer is that there should be emotion and creativity, and that’s what the industry usually promises at the start. But then you see designers being made to cut out the emotion from said process to not make something from the heart but simply to fill the void in the industry’s commercial aspect of selling to make quick profit.

All one can say and truly believe is that when designers leave, whether by their own accord or not, the name of the house becomes tainted and the value is broken.

For an industry that is moulded and created for women, only houses are female-led or co-led, under the likes of Comme des Garçons, Prada, Versace, Bouchra Jarra, Valentino and Ulyana Sergeenko. (Alexander McQueen, Sacai and Kenzo are also led respectively by their female positions but are predominately occupied by men.) To say that the industry is lacking women is not an understatement at all, women in the industry are under represented with smaller positions that don’t bring much ‘huzzah’ as a position that a male counter part gets – with couture seamstresses suffering the most out of this.

Earlier in the year, the LVMH Young Designers Prize was listed and out of the 26-independent/young labels shortlisted, only five were listed to be under a female direction - that’s only 30% of womanpower.

When it comes to this gender issue though, and seeing the way it is moving, there’s only such hope that a new chapter will begin again for these houses that no longer have a current director. It’d be nice to see a woman take the lead, as Dior is a name for a woman, then should a woman take charge of what women of today want. Just that it is crucial that women are able to hold important roles in business, technology, politics or other, it’s just as crucial that women are given the respect and rights they deserve in the industry.

All of that aside though, all I can say for both Dior and Lanvin, who are awaiting their new successors, is that I hope they consider good designers with good intentions – hopefully they are women. In this industry, there is a massive gender imbalance between those who direct, creative to those who model and follow behind. And I suppose it's just moving so fast that even big names need a break to recollect themselves.