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The King is dead. Long live the King

Author: Estel Vilaseca

Section: NOTES

Date: 12.2012

 

This autumn brings yet another unexpected exit. An enigmatic statement announced the departure of Nicolas Ghesquière from Balenciaga directly following the presentation of one of his most critically acclaimed collections. Keyboards immediately began to smoulder as everyone moved to offer conjectures and propose candidates for the post. On this occasion the answers were not long in coming and, a couple of weeks later, Alexander Wang was chosen as successor. This may seem like just another anecdote in the world of sports that fashion has become, and every season the sector glitzes with star signings and unexpected collaborations. This is not something to be taken lightly, however, and these changes only serve to ring in the end of an era and confirm what many expert professionals from the sector are saying, that fashion is not what it used to be, and that the designer, as the demiurge, is losing the battle against the power of the entrepreneur and the industry itself.

 

The king is Dead l DRESSLAB

 

The first round was lost in 2000 when Jil Sander found herself ousted from the company that she herself had founded and which bore her name. This was the beginning of a battle between the German designer and the Prada group that saw many comings and goings. A phrase from Bertelli precisely sums up the initial stages of this particular game of thrones: “A brand name as strong as Jil Sander doesn’t need the support of a designer.” After a couple of foiled attempts, Sander has returned home in good standing after a period of twelve years. The fact remains that this was no small achievement, and in February this year she announced her return and told Style.com “The fashion world needs original voices and authentic brand names.” One could class it as a technical draw. Helmut Lang, however, was not so lucky as he found himself caught up in the Sander battle. Unofficial versions say that the brand name was acquired in order to weaken it as a competitor for Sander, who at the time was in the hands of Simons, a resounding checkmate that left one of the most promising designers of the nineties out of the race.

 

The king is Dead l DRESSLAB

 

The sudden death of Alexander McQueen is also relevant to the story. The English designer took just fifteen years to establish a brand name, and while at Givenchy he made it very clear that designers are at the mercy of the markets: “[Bernard] Arnault was never going to allow Givenchy to upstage Dior. As far as he is concerned, Givenchy is just a perfume.”, and the collaboration came to and end because the company was “inhibiting his creativity.” While in the company, however, his time was not spent in vain, and he used it to establish the tone for his brand name and adapt it to the new codes of the industry. However, while he was at the height of his powers and had achieved perfect balance, his suicide shattered the illusion.

 

The King is dead l DRESSLAB

 

The third round sees the bizarre exit of John Galliano from Dior. I have always been of the opinion that Galliano was set up and that Dior set the trap in order to rid the company of an uncomfortable individual who no longer formed part of their plans. The little Napoleon of fashion was completely out of phase with the dictates of the market and the resulting scandal was perfect, serving to create expectation and put the spectacular but decadent name of Dior back on everybody’s lips. In short, this was a millimetrically staged operetta designed to bolster the audience for the inauguration of the second season at the hands of the inimical Raf Simons.

 

The King is Dead l DRESSLAB

 

According to Eugenia de la Torriente, the departure of Ghesquière from Balenciaga is just another episode in the battle between the LVMH and PPR groups. As Miguel Androver declares in Industrie magazine, “It’s true, many people have approached me, from Lanvin, Donna Karan or Moschino, to join their brands, but I always say ‘My house is dirty enough that I don’t want to go cleaning other people’s houses.’ I don’t believe in these old labels like Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and Dior. They’re old philosophies. In their day they were very useful – for example, Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel helped with women’s liberation, but I don’t think they have anything to say today.” Nicolas Ghesquière still has a lot to say, and to be able to do it under his own brand name is only deserving for such an obvious talent as his.

 

The King is Dead l DRESSLAB

 

Text_ Estel Vilaseca

 

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