2013 is shaping up to be an interesting year, as fashion cognoscenti keep a watchful eye on the new creative directors of some of the most revered labels in the industry. The recent departures of Nicolas Ghesquière, John Galliano and Stefano Pilato from Balenciaga, Dior, and YSL respectively have left many questioning the future of these high end brands. Couturing looks at what their successors might have in store for us.
The house of Christian Dior is in new hands, since Belgian-born Raf Simons replaced John Galliano as artistic director last year.
During his four years as creative boss at Jil Sander, Simons revelled in outlandish colours, abstract lines and sophisticated simplicity, creating pieces that were both fashion-forward and timeless. His final Jil Sander show, which earned a standing ovation and brought tears to the eyes of models and spectators alike, is a testament to the impact he had on the fashion world. No doubt he will earn the same respect in his new role.
Dior devotees have got a taste of Simons’ intentions for the brand, as he has now unveiled both his A/W and S/S couture collections as well as two highly praised ready-to-wear collections. 43-year old Simons has successfully retained traditional Dior tailoring and elegance whilst adding just the right touch of contemporary aesthetic to see sales go up by 24% in 2012. Both his couture collections featured embroidered silk bustier tops and dresses, feminine pastel palettes, intricate floral detailing and stunning embellishments.
Simons has proven to the fashion world that he understands and respects the iconic Dior style, providing comfort to the fashion elite that Dior’s cherished legacy of Parisian perfection will live on.
After more than a decade as head designer of the YSL fashion house, Stefano Pilato has been replaced by the bold and rebellious Hedi Slimane, also known as ‘the Prince of Darkness’. In his new role as Saint Laurent’s creative director, Slimane has already managed to both rock and shock the fashion world, starting with the symbolic chopping of the “Y” from YSL.
To inject some rock’n’roll into the brand, the Saint Laurent campaigns feature demure black and white portraits of Marilyn Manson, Ariel Pink, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Courtney Love, and tunes by Daft Punk. Given YSL has for so long been synonymous with French elegance and timeless haute couture, some see the omission of Yves and other changes as audacious moves that have butchered the brand. Others believe there is method behind the madness and trust that Slimane will bring just the right amount of revolutionary spirit to modernise the brand for younger generations.
Critics are also divided over the new Saint Laurent collections, with his debut receiving the most criticism. Under the pressure to wow audiences, Slimane’s debut was excessively eclectic, featuring everything from feathers, sequins and lace to oversized wide brimmed hats, chiffon blouses, skinny cigarette pants and fringed suede dresses. While the aim of this collection was to honour and reflect classic YSL designs, Slimane clearly put a contemporary, edgy take on each ensemble. His second collection was very L.A., as he brought elements of Coachella grunge to the catwalk, including tartan shirts, fishnets, and a whole lot of black.
Whatever your stance on the legacy of YSL, Slimane does have the power and creative talent to challenge and intrigue us.
Another highly anticipated taking of the throne has been the appointment of 29-year old New York-based Alexander Wang at Balenciaga. Christian Dior once said of the brand’s namesake, “He is the maestro, the rest of us just musicians.” Clearly, taking over the reins from Nicolas Ghesquière and inheriting the heritage of Balenciaga is an enormous privilege and will be a big test for the young New Yorker.
While many question whether Wang is more of a businessman than a high-end creative director, his debut collection proved he might just have what it takes. Showcasing his first collection during this year’s Paris Fashion Week at the stunning Balenciaga house on Paris’ Avenue George V, Wang’s A/W pieces were all about the silhouette, modern simplicity, and unique textiles. With a marble catwalk at their feet, models wore monochrome peplum dresses, voluminous jackets, high-waisted textured velvet pants and marbled furs (continuing the marble theme).
Wang doesn’t seem intent on creating as much of a ruckus as Slimane but the Taiwanese-American designer, who is also well-connected throughout Asia, will undoubtedly reach new markets and arouse consumer interest.
With the inheritance of such grand legacies comes enormous pressure to uphold their stature and preserve their brand identities. Will these three designers continue to show restraint and resist the temptation to hijack such beloved labels? All we can do is watch this space!
Images courtesy of Dior, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga