Where Has My Tailor Gone?

Big groups are capitalising talents in such an extreme way that creativity might die.

According to WWD he might have signed a contract with Gucci, Bally or Louis Vuitton, and is gone from the house; the one where he used to be a couturier for some or a designer for others depending on the definitions you apply to these two words.

Anyway he is no longer one or the other. He has been named Creative Director, what a huge title for a less noble role. He went from being a master of crafts with an original aesthetic vision to a supervisor of productions meant to fill the shelves and rags of worldwide flagship stores. Not that I look down on big global boutiques but it is such a pity that men or women with great talent find themselves blocked in non-flexible structures where no compromise can be done. Maximum of profit is the rule.

And who decides? A bunch of stakeholders that have no clue of fashion and do not even care but are thrilled and hooked by what they call brand equity. The label written on the sewed or hanging tag took over the designer's persona and is no longer identified with its founder or initiator. Every 6 months, the seasonal fashion week series brings its list of Creative Directors on the move. If one was at X once one is at Y now. Surprisingly enough X used to be the go-to destination that Y has become.

It is not difficult to establish a parallel between designer location changes and fashion houses' successful moments. Marketing departments have taken over private creative studio member clubs but to keep the arty and glamorous side of things the boss is a Creative Director, which means that he or she is still creating something or pretending to. As we all know Creative Directors do not draw or cut the first calico for each garment. He or she gives the lead imposed by the board members in the eyes of past business results.

Big groups are capitalising talents in such an extreme way that creativity might die. Unless we want to wear blinkers and convince ourselves that the must have high waisted straight velvet corduroy trousers of next winter are not a déjà vu. Personally I saw them in my mum's archive closet and on seventies pictures... paired with bright orange knits. Oh No! Oh Yes! And guess what... I was planning to pull out this look soon and to feel very unique. Shame on me, I am not contemporary and keep rewinding the fashion tape.

In this world where the new and emerging designers (do not really understand the difference...) are exchanging their seats and the established couturiers keep being special guests of their own farewell parties, Karl Lagerfeld could be the last of the Mohicans. Karl's succession at Chanel has not been addressed yet and is every now and then a hot topic if not a reason to debate on magazine columns when there is a shortage of news. In the past decades, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino or Alexander McQueen waved their goodbye.

Is the pressure too hard to cope with, or did they pick the wrong chair?

The answer is pretty obvious after a decade of fashion merges and acquisitions: it all comes down to a strategy of streamlining. Get the luxury fashion market transparent to the ones who run it and to the eyes of the customers. A couturier does not have the right to leave his position without a good reason, Martin Margiela being an exception. Nobody can deny that Galliano fostered the cash to go in the Dior tills and would have created a crisis inside LVMH if he had decided to leave suddenly. Galliano has this sensitivity to be moved and inspired by anything that surrounds him and to translate it through threads and cuts.

Remember the SS 2008 womenswear Galliano collection where obvious references to the movie Grey Gardens were strolling down the catwalk. Grey Gardens is a 1975 documentary film by Albert and David Maysles about two of Jackie Kennedy's relatives who have lived in poor conditions in a family owned mansion for more than thirty years. Edith Bouvier Beal and her mother are the two persona of a story about decadence but where humanness appears in a striking way. John has succeeded in conveying self-abnegation through garments to be worn from the runway to the streets. If these themes have often been used by fashion house creative teams as a way to claim a certain depth in a field that is commonly considered as superficial, John approached them with his guts and the result was breath taking at least for those who had seen Grey Gardens.

According to the current trends, long-lasting creativity might be considered as a mental disease. As showed recently, pills do kill inspiration and blow up talent. Galliano has become his own shadow however he still owns his shadow so he might want to dance with it one last time before bowing out or so we hope.


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