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2015 Preview: Designer Musical Chairs

Photo: Patrick Demarchelier / Courtesy of Maison Martin Margiela

Photo: Patrick Demarchelier / Courtesy of Maison Martin Margiela

Right now it feels as if everything is almost in place. Peter Copping is making his way at Oscar de la Renta, Guillaume Henry is settling in at Nina Ricci. Frida Giannini finally said good-bye to Gucci after enduring rumors of her departure for more than a year. By the end of the month, we’ll almost certainly know who is taking over Carven. (According to our friends in Paris, December reports that Iceberg’s Alexis Martial was the front-runner are still accurate.) By the beginning of Paris fashion week, we might know who is going to Gucci. Maybe it’ll even be someone other than Riccardo Tisci! My vote is for Joseph Altuzarra. His clothes are the right mix of smart and sexy and beautiful. And with the right accessories director by his side, he could fly.

Yet, there will be more changes. Schiaparelli will probably appoint someone new, after letting go of Marco Zanini last fall. Zanini will likely land somewhere, too. Oh, and whatever happened with Charles James? In May 2014, the Weinstein Company took out a license on the Anglo-American couturier’s name, with Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman consulting on design. Maybe that’ll come to fruition this year. (On the historical tip, the rights to Poiret are up for grabs, and at least one contemporary empire builder has been kicking the tires.) And don’t count out a shake-up or two at one of the top-tier fashion houses. One can never determine when a designer is going to fly the coop—or be pushed out of the nest.

At this point in fashion history, the shuffling, reviving, rearranging is expected. Since LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault started buying up luxury fashion houses in the 1980s, installing young talents to revive old brands, designers have worked as hired hands, often financially fueling their own collections by serving as creative directors of other people’s labels. This is how it goes.

One can never determine when a designer is going to fly the coop—or be pushed out of the nest.

What has changed, however, is the shock and awe and thrill that comes with the grand appointments of the past. (Listen to someone speak about McQueen’s turbulent Givenchy years and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.) There is very little room for risk in fashion, unless that risk is measured. Alexander Wang was a practical option for a brand like Balenciaga, which wants to broaden its commercial appeal. Raf Simons deserved Dior! Nicolas Ghesquière was a logical choice for Louis Vuitton, a brand that wants to move further upmarket. Even John Galliano was, in some strange sense, the only way for Renzo Rosso to go at Margiela. Galliano’s talent is all but guaranteed, as is the publicity he’ll attract. Henry, a shoo-in for Nina Ricci. Copping, the most comforting choice for ODLR. Even installing the young and relatively inexperienced Jonathan Anderson at Loewe wasn’t that much of a gamble, given his slyly commercial leanings.

There are no curveballs here, no wild children making fashion a particularly complicated, messy place. Why? For one, designers today are well aware of the job requirements before signing on the dotted line. They’ve seen creative geniuses fall, and they understand that fashion is no longer just about creation but also about transactions. What’s more, behind-the-scenes execs are better educated about what they need in a creative leader than they were a decade or two ago. They’re more careful with their talent, even if they demand more from them. It’s all very antiseptic, in a way. And the comings and goings have become so routine that it will take something truly unexpected (Helmut Lang coming out of retirement to helm Gucci, say, or Karl Lagerfeld deciding it’s time to step down at Chanel) to capture the imagination.

Does that mean there aren’t great clothes being made, that there isn’t room for something that feels entirely new to captivate us? Of course not. But when it comes to designer musical chairs, don’t expect the unexpected this year. This game is anything but magical.

—Lauren Sherman,

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