When news broke that Lanvin Creative Director, Alber Elbaz, was departing the brand after nearly 15 years at the helm of the prestigious French fashion house, it triggered thoughts as to who was at fault.
While a change in leadership can often infuse a new perspective, those in creative control are often the biggest selling points that brands have these days. Thus, it came as little surprise when details began to emerge that there was real tension between Elbaz and Taiwanese publishing magnate/owner Shaw-Lan Wang and chief executive Michèle Huiban.
Elbaz told The New York Times in an email as to why he was leaving that it was “on the decision of the company’s majority shareholder.”
As the dust begins to settle – and shortlists are surely being created to determine who will will fill Lanvin’s coveted post – it was just four years ago when it seemed like Elbaz might be a Lanvin lifer.
In 2011, when asked if he would consider moving to another brand from Lanvin, he told the Financial Times, “How could I do that? The people who work there enable me to do what I do. They are my orchestra. I can’t say to them, ‘Oh, bye, Mummy’s leaving now.’”
Albert Elbaz joins a list of other high-profile creatives who have departed major fashion houses in the last five years alone. While some cited a change of scenery, others were forced into a professional walk of shame. Here are the five most notable:
John Galliano Leaves Dior
Although John Galliano has rebounded nicely with an appointment at Margiela, there was a time when he was perhaps fashion’s biggest pariah.
In March 2011, Galliano was sacked by Dior over an anti-Semitic tirade that was caught on video in front of café La Perle in Paris in which he made remarks like “I love Hitler,” and “People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be fucking gassed.”
“We unequivocally condemn the statements made by John Galliano, which are in total contradiction to the longstanding core values of Christian Dior,” Dior’s Chief Executive Sidney Toledano said in a statement.
According to French law, such religious epithets were punishable by as much as a six-month prison sentence and a fine of 22,500 euros ($31,240 USD).
In response, Galliano issued a statement, saying, “Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society. I unreservedly apologize for my behavior in causing any offense.”
In September 2011, he was found guilty for his tirade and ordered to pay suspended fines for 6,000 euros ($8,400 USD) in addition to a single, symbolic euro to each victim in attendance of his outburst.
Stefano Pilati Leaves YSL
During his eight-year tenure as the man in charge at Yves Saint Laurent, Stefano Pilati seamlessly occupied the spotlight vacated by Tom Ford who departed to run his own self-eponymous label.
At the time, YSL was facing annual losses totaling $100 million USD. Whether a shot at his predecessors – or a bold assertion that Pilati had a royal mess to clean up – W Magazine referred to him as a “custodian.”
Pilati made YSL profitable during his tenure – specifically earning major wins in the female sector with the Tribute shoe and the Muse bag.
When it was announced that Pilati was leaving in 2012, there was no ill-will like in the case of John Galliano and Dior, with the official announcement stating, “[Pilati] has stood at the creative helm of the maison and has been instrumental in the rebuilding and repositioning of an iconic French luxury brand. Under Stefano’s guiding vision and artistic direction, the house has become a contemporary reference in high fashion.”
Marc Jacobs Leaves Louis Vuitton
In a similar case as Tom Ford departing YSL, Marc Jacobs left Louis Vuitton after 16 years to focus on his own namesake label.
The New York Times noted of his farewell, “Mr. Jacobs’s tenure at Vuitton became one of the most successful examples of a revival of a historic French house, and also the longest-running, apart from Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel and Fendi, spawning what has become a standard business model to place contemporary designers at historic fashion labels.”
When Jacobs took creative control at Louis Vuitton in 1997, it was a $20 million USD a year company. When he left, the totality of sales was approaching $1 billion USD.
Alexander Wang Leaves Balenciaga
In July of this year, news emerged that Alexander Wang would be exiting the top creative post at Parisian house, Balenciaga, after two-and-a-half years at the helm.
Hired to replace Nicolas Ghesquière, who exited after a stellar 15-year tenure and subsequently joined Louis Vuitton, Wang wasn’t yet 30-years-old by the time Balenciaga came calling based off notable achievements like his flagship store in New York’s SoHo district and 5,000-square-foot unit in Beijing.
Like many of the aforementioned creatives, Wang’s withdrawal centered on his desire to focus on his own project.
“The dynamic growth of the brand over the last years bears testimony to his successful creative work,” Balenciaga president and CEO, Isabelle Guichot, said in a statement.
As of 2015, Balenciaga was turning a profit and earning $387 million USD in sales a year.
Raf Simons Leaves Dior
The ink is still wet on the divorce papers between Raf Simons and Dior when it was announced on October 22 that he was leaving the position he first stepped into in April 2012 after being recruited from Jil Sander.
“It is after careful and long consideration that I have decided to leave my position as creative director of Christian Dior’s women’s collection,” Simons said in a statement. “It is a decision based entirely and equally on my desire to focus on other interests in my life, including my own brand, and the passions that drive me outside my work. Christian Dior is an extraordinary company, and it has been an immense privilege to write a few pages of this magnificent book.”
Credited with bringing a more “modernist” approach to the French house, many speculate that Simons’ departure opens the door for a recent free agent, Alber Elbaz.
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