The Fall/Winter 2015 shows, which recently came to a close, were a bit more eventful than usual, and it was not necessarily because of the garments and accessories that hit the runway. (In fact, they have been given reviews that were less than stellar in terms of excitement). In New York, Peter Copping made his official debut as the successor of the late Oscar de la Renta, who passed away in October. His collection was deemed by critics to be respectful of the legacy of the great Mr. de la Renta, an icon in New York and abroad, and simultaneously, indicative of the evolution that will come under the direction of Copping.
A well executed balance probably sums up his debut most appropriately. Internationally, an array of changes came, most specifically in Paris, where John Galliano showed his first main season collection for Martin Margiela; Guillaume Henry debuted at Nina Ricci (pictured below); Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud took the helm at Carven; and Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski stepped out of the shadow of the Olsen twins at The Row, and into the spotlight at famed Paris-based house, Hermès. Also do not forget that Alessandro Michele showed his first womenswear collection for Gucci in Milan, since the messy ouster of creative director Frida Giannini and CEO Patrizio Di Marco earlier this year.
The fashion industry is accustomed to this game of “musical chairs” as we have come to call it, and from my observations, we actually thrive on it quite a bit. The cycle — from the ousting of a house’s creative director and the often crazed speculation that most certainly follows, to the confirmation of a new creative director and the anticipation of his/her debut at the new house — makes for a suspenseful ride. And when the house is either big enough or the talent noteworthy enough, it is arguably a good exercise in branding and exposure for brands. Gucci, for instance, needed a bit of excitement in its orbit following years of lackluster sales and next to non-existent growth thanks to consumers’ logo fatigue.
The rumor mill that comes hand in hand with the firing and replacing of a creative director and the successor’s debut provides nothing if not a handful of press worthiness. All eyes were in Michele and Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection as a result of Giannini’s departure. The same could not really be said of the house’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection. Other designers, such as John Galliano, with his storied past as a master designer and his more recent trysts with the law undoubtedly bring the spotlight (and capture the attention of the media and mainstream), something Margiela has not specifically aimed to entertain in the past, making that appointment a particularly interesting one. These events certainly speak to a more diverse group. They attract individuals in addition to the die hard fashion fans and industry insiders who would otherwise be interested
Fashion shows garner a wider scale of attention than the norm for the fashion industry in the off-seasons, as it seems that many non-fashion people do not care when LVMH posts its quarterly financials or when Joseph Altuzarra releases his Pre-Fall lookbook. (The exception here is likely when designer collaboration announcements occur, as the more mainstream audience responds quite a bit to things like this). So, the role that directorial-level shakeups play in terms of relevance is an inquiry that is worthy of debate.
If anything, the fashion industry has become quite good at courting a wider audience. The social media build up to shows, the stunt casting with which we are oh-so-very accustomed at the moment, their star-studded front rows, and the over-the-top presentations (think: Chanel’s Brasserie Gabrielle) draw wide spread attention. These things will certainly draw a more expansive audience than the news that recently-appointed Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud are showing their first collection for Carven. This is simply because most people don’t know who those two individuals are. They do, however, know of Chanel and/or Kendall Jenner — and may tune into a lifestream show or look at images as a result.
However, as I mentioned, there are certainly exceptions. Given the fact that when John Galliano worked on a collection for Oscar de la Renta in 2013, the brand’s livestream crashed because so many people were trying to watch, I’d say the general public can be tempted by some industry shakeups. The question is: To what extent, if any, is it beneficial for houses to play into such attention as a way to raise brand awareness and bolster sales?