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The artistic director in fashion: a profession in full mutation (Part 2)

The artistic director in fashion: a profession in full mutation (Part 2)

Luxus+ Magazine continues its investigation into the place of the artistic director in fashion houses. The time when a couturier remained inseparable from his brand seems to be over. In recent years, the pace of fashion has accelerated considerably, so much so that some designers deplore the fact that they have to produce collections in a few weeks.


This is notably the case of Raf Simons for whom creation is a long process, incompatible with the hyperactivity required of artistic directors. Some, however, have adapted perfectly to this frenetic pace. This is the case of Rick Owens, who speaks of our time as the “golden age of fashion“, or Karl Lagerfeld, whose prolific creativity was well adapted to the urgency in which he had to work constantly.


Designers on the verge of burning out


In an interview with WWD, Karl Lagerfeld, who was artistic director of Chanel, Fendi and his own brand, said he loved working in this way: “I love this unbridled rhythm. Fashion is synonymous with speed. But if you’re not a good matador, don’t enter the arena. Fashion today is a sport, you have to know how to run” .


Karl Lagerfeld was an exception in this profession, which has had many overworked designers in recent years, so much so that some have called this generation of designers the “burn-out generation“.


In addition to hyperactive designers and those who have suffered from overwork, some designers have nevertheless managed to continue to create at their own pace by refusing to give in to the constant pressure.


Among these “purists” are Azzedine Alaïa, Rei Kawabuko, and Phoebe Philo, discreet creators who are at the antipodes of the all-powerful and over-mediatized art director model.


A new trend: duos of artistic directors


Since the mid-2000s, which saw the end of superstar art directors in the style of Tom Ford, many houses have found a cure for overwork by collaborating with creators with different styles or know-how.


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New brands, such as Coperni, The Row and Botter, have been born with a duo of designers at their head. Older houses such as Courrèges, Kenzo, Nina Ricci, and Oscar de la Renta have also created duos of young designers in order to take off again.


Mathias Ohrel, director of m-O Conseil, a recruitment agency specializing in the fashion industry, explains the change in the profession of artistic director: “CEOs no longer have any hesitation in recruiting duets because the profession of artistic director has changed considerably (…).They are no longer simply there to impose a vision. They are no longer artistic dictators. They have to stimulate, supervise and manage an entire studio to cope with the multiplication of collections. In short, creation has become a team sport. Working together as a team also allows them to take turns and to allow themselves more time for silence so that they can fully devote themselves to it.


Thus Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada will have time to devote to their personal brand (Raf Simons still runs Raf by Raf Simons; Miuccia Prada remains the exclusive creator of her younger brand MiuMiu). A real event therefore, which perfectly illustrates the evolution of this fascinating profession.




Featured photo : Miuccia Prada et Raf Simons au salon Prada Resort 2019 à New York © Getty images – Sean Zanni