In less than half a decade, the fashion industry has seen more leading designers changing houses than ever before. The competitive atmosphere has led to what some now call the ‘designer musical chairs’ at almost all of the biggest fashion brands in the world.
For example, last year’s power moves could be boiled down to a handful of major interchanges. An exit from beloved creatives like Alber Elbaz at Lanvin and Hedi Slimane from Yves Saint Laurent among others gestured an era of complete newness at both the labels.
In 2016, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Demna Gvasalia were the new inserts at Dior and Balenciaga respectively, and in 2017 their arrivals lead to exponential growth and newfound relevance for both the houses.
However, several of 2017’s exits still await a successor and we might hear those announcements very soon in the New Year. An important lesson from the past year’s shake-ups is that designer tenures are becoming shorter than ever. Several houses are choosing successors based on their ability to bring a youth-centric take on fashion production and less on experience.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to all the designers that played 2017’s game of fashion musical chairs and the additional surprises we can expect with the arrival of 2018.
JAN: Clare Waight Keller bids adieu to Chloé
2017’s first big broadcast came from the French fashion label Chloé that confirmed Clare Waight Keller’s departure. After rumours surfacing in 2016, the designer finally resigned in the last week of January after being with the label for six years. Known for infusing Gaby Aghion’s legacy with a youthful cool, her last collection was presented at the Autumn/Winter 2017 edition of Paris Fashion Week.
FEB: Riccardo Tisci steps down from Givenchy
Riccardo Tisci, the ace designer responsible for a complete rejuvenation of French couture house Givenchy, exited the company after twelve long years of service. Tisci’s era at Givenchy ended with the designer’s Fall 2017 menswear and Spring 2017 Couture collections. At the time, there were speculations that he might join close friend Donatella Versace at her late brother’s eponymous label and succeed the Italian brand but no such confirmation has been made yet.
MAR: Chloé appoints Natacha Ramsay-Levi
Post Keller’s exit in January, it was announced that Natacha Ramsay-Levi would soon succeed the luxury brand effective from March. Formerly the right hand of Creative Chief Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton, the new Chloé girl debuted her first collection for Spring 2018 in Paris, continuing the brand’s signature bohemian style developed by Keller whilst updating it with her own sharper contemporary twist.
MAR: Clare Waight Keller joins Givenchy
Elsewhere, Paris-based heritage house Givenchy created history by employing Clare Waight Keller as their first-ever female Creative Director. The designer is most known for her work at Chloé, which included inheriting the brand’s own aesthetic and updating it with her personal touch of modern prairie-style frills and elegant tracksuits. It seems like after an edgy period with Tisci at the helm, Givenchy is now ready to reinstate some of that Hubert de Givenchy-style femininity back into the house.
APR: Jenna Lyons says goodbye to J.Crew
Marking the end of an era at J.Crew, President and Creative Director Jenna Lyons left the American fashion retailer in April. Lyons joined the clothier fresh out of Parsons at the age of 21 and swiftly worked her way up over the span of her twenty-six-year term. During these years, Lyons became more of a style ambassador for J.Crew, making contacts far and wide in the industry. The struggling brand announced that they will not be looking for a replacement and rather promote Somsack Sikhounmuong as Chief Design Officer from within the team.
APR: Massimo Georgetti departs Emilio Pucci
Successor of Peter Dundas at the Italian fashion house, Massimo Georgetti’s tenure at Pucci came to a close in just two years. Georgetti’s work at the label was filled with jazzy prints and upbeat colours and a successor is yet to be named. In the meanwhile, ex-Balenciaga designer Josephus Thimister is giving a consulting hand to Pucci’s design team.
APR: Luke and Lucie Meier head to Jil Sander
After the departure of Rodolfo Paglialunga in March, German luxury house Jil Sander appointed husband-wife duo Luke and Lucie Meier as their new Co-Creative Directors. This became the first time for the couple to be working together and their first collection shown in Milan for the Spring 2018 season was a perfect mix of Luke’s streetwear background and Lucie’s celebration of French minimalism.
MAY: Roberto Cavalli ropes in Paul Surridge
Succeeding Peter Dundas’ short-lived tenancy, Roberto Cavalli roped in lesser-known Paul Surridge as its new Creative Director. Surridge previously worked under Calvin Klein himself during the ’90s and has designed for Jil Sander, Z Zegna and Burberry. The British designer presented his first Cavalli collection at the Spring 2018 shows in Milan to jubilant reviews. Designed in just eight weeks, his offering was much more pared down than Cavalli’s signature style and welcomes a minimalistic period for the Florentine house.
JUNE: Brioni hires Nina-Maria Nitsche
Kering-owned menswear suiting brand Brioni appointed Nina-Maria Nitsche in June after ending a less than six-month long tumultuous partnership with former Creative Head Justin O’Shea. Prior to this, Nitsche was associated with Maison Margiela for twenty-three years, working alongside the genius Belgian designer and taking over the reigns herself after his scandalous departure in 2009.
JULY: Lanvin replaces Bouchra Jarrar with Olivier Lapidus
Bouchra Jarrar stepped down from her position at Lanvin after a mere two-season collaboration. This added to the already boisterous demi-decade for Lanvin after the departure of industry’s beloved Alber Elbaz in 2015. In June 2017, the nomination of Olivier Lapidus as new Artistic Director of the French brand came right on the heels of Jarrar’s exit, who presented his first collection in September at the Paris Fashion Week to fairly neutral reviews.
OCT: Salvatore Ferragamo promotes Paul Andrew
In order to replace Fulvio Rigoni, whose work at Salvatore Ferragamo received a lukewarm response at best, the Italian brand promoted Paul Andrew from its pre-existing team as its new Design Director of women’s ready-to-wear (RTW) and footwear. Andrew had already been working on Ferragamo footwear and his first RTW collection will be debuted at the Autumn/Winter 2018 shows.
OCT: Christopher Bailey announces Burberry exodus
One of the biggest move in the designer musical chairs last year was the broadcast of Christopher Bailey’s impending departure, set to be effective from March 2018. Currently holding the titles of President and Chief Creative Officer, Bailey was responsible for much of Burberry’s success in becoming a global powerhouse over his seventeen-year dream run. London-based Burberry was one of the first big fashion labels to execute a ‘see now, buy now’ model under Bailey’s leadership and his successor is yet to be named.
DEC: Jonathan Saunders resigns from DVF
Kicking off a long line of December exoduses, Jonathan Saunders exited his Chief Creative Officer role at Diane Von Furstenberg with immediate effect. Saunders was supposed to reinvent DVF’s entire identity but his partnership only lasted for eighteen months due to rumoured friction between him and the brand’s founder. Nevertheless, his small body of work at DVF was received with astounding reviews and the designer’s gender fluid clothes and optimistic imagery will be cherished.
DEC: Mugler swaps David Koma with Casey Cadwallader
After a four-year run at the French fashion brand, David Koma parted ways with Mugler and was replaced by American designer Casey Cadwallader. Cadwallader has worked with brands like Narciso Rodriguez, Loewe, and was most recently the Design Director of pre-collections at Acne Studios. If his previous work and social media presence are any indications, Cadwallader’s work will be a very renewed art-oriented aeon for Mugler.
DEC: Nicola Formichetti leaves Diesel
Italian high-end fashion retailer Diesel bid goodbye to its first-ever Artistic Director Nicola Formichetti who joined them in 2013. It is understood that the high-end retailer will not be naming a successor and rather try a different design approach. Formichetti will continue to focus on his own label Nicopanda and maintain his position as Fashion Director at Vogue Hommes Japan and Creative Fashion Director at Uniqlo.
DEC: Phoebe Philo concludes Céline tenure
The 2017’s last departure story was also one of the biggest; Céline’s renowned Creative Head Phoebe Philo confirmed her exit after ten prosperous years. Considered an empress of modern fashion by some, Philo took a dormant house and introduced a design vernacular that has come to define not just the brand but the desired aesthetic of an entire generation. Céline’s soon-to-be-unveiled Pre-Fall 2018 collection will be Philo’s last and with no news for her successor, the brand’s in-house team will be designing the interim assortments.