Fashion brands are hiring two types of creative director these days: A-list celebrities and complete unknowns. No grey area.
Consider that, within mere days of each other in late May 2023, both Bally and Ann Demeulemeester hired relatively anonymous designers to fill their creative director roles. Bally swapped RHUDE founder Rhuigi for Gucci vet Simone Bellotti while Ann Demeulemeester replaced Ludovic de Saint Sernin with Stefano Gallici, a former Haider Ackermann assistant.
The appointments follow a pattern established over the past year or so by comparably larger luxury labels wherein nearly-anonymous designers are put in the place previously held by a rising star.
For example, in late 2021, Bottega Veneta installed then-obscure Matthieu Blazy in place of Daniel Lee — himself a relative unknown prior to his Bottega tenure — who was then tapped by Burberry.
Meanwhile, Gucci replaced departing director Alessandro Michele with former Prada and Valentino design team member Sabato de Sarno in January 2023.
By now it's worth pointing out: you and I had no idea who the hell any of these guys are until they got their gigs. And that's the point, really.
These designers are blank slates, tabula rasa. Their bosses want to solely emphasize the clothes rather than the men — and they are all men, at that.
It's worth pausing here to underline the fact that, however diverse these companies' staffs are overall, their creative directors are all white European guys. Food for thought.
Anyways, I've already written about luxury's penchant for hiring famous people, which is basically the opposite of hiring a dyed-in-the-wool fashion lifer like any of the aforementioned dudes.
The trend of bringing in celebrities to "design" collections bothered me because it engenders safety, encouraging those with deep pockets to lean on established names rather than take a risk by hiring deserving young talent.
The creative director appointments of industry insiders like Blazy, de Sarno, and the rest are similar but I view this move more favorably than the A-list alternative.
Certainly, I'd rather see hungry young designers be given the vaunted creative director role but I can appreciate that the head honchos would rather install a proven worker. At least they're choosing a established designers rather than famous people who's just gonna slap their name on the tag.
This kind of hiring is still very safe but at least I can see where it's coming from.
Unlike the burgeoning talents that they're replacing at Bally and Ann Demeulemeester, Bellotti and Gallici have hardly any (if any) social media following to speak of, established fanbases, or public ego.
Presumably this both ensures that they'll focus more on their work than cultivating a following and makes them more malleable when executive push comes to creative shove.
But that's speculation. All we know is that we know nothing. We have no preconceptions or expectations, nothing to go off. Blank slates, like I said.
In the case of Blazy, that worked out pretty well, I'd say: anyone nervous that Blazy couldn't compare to Lee was immediately reassured by Blazy's exceptional Bottega runway debut.
This is how it worked for guys like Saint Laurent's Anthony Vaccarello — who previously lasted a single year at Versus Versace — and Alessandro Michele.
In particular, Michele was an unknown quantity when he became Gucci's creative director in 2015, though he'd been working his way up through the fashion house since 2002.
By the time he left in 2022, Michele had become synonymous with Gucci, his inimitable romanticized ethos had infiltrating every aspect of the flagship Kering label. Like Tom Ford before him, Michele became iconic.
In comparison, though I have high hopes for de Sarno's Gucci, I'm not sure that he'll ever reach Michele's level of notoriety. That's probably just fine by his bosses, honestly: it keeps the focus on the clothes, rather than the man.