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In constant flux: The creative upheaval of designers in 2023

By Jule Scott


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Credits: ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

Fashion has always been fickle, and while the role of creative director is highly coveted, it has never been considered the most secure gig in the industry. This year, the constant flux was particularly evident at the highest echelons of luxury fashion's creative ladder, as no one, from industry veterans and long-time executives to newly crowned creative directors, seemed safe from (premature) departures.

FashionUnited reflects upon a year in which the only constant was change and recaps the most important movements on the creative map for you.

January: A few goodbyes and the answer to a long-awaited question

The first brand to initiate changes this year was Lacoste. After four years, creative director Louise Trotter, who oversaw the brand's transition towards womenswear, left the French brand "to pursue other opportunities". The nature of those "opportunities" for Trotter only became clear as the year progressed, and Lacoste's creative future also remained vague at first. It was announced that the brand with the crocodile would be moving to a collaborative atelier model that would focus on a collective vision.

Elsewhere, there was a new arrival, but no departure, as Belgian designer Christian Wijnants was appointed creative director of Belgian luxury brand Maison Ullens in mid-January. At British menswear label Dunhill, on the other hand, it was announced a that creative director Mark Weston had secretly and quietly left Dunhill after five years.

Credits: ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

The announcement of the next fashionable newcomer was a less quiet affair, as the industry entered 2023 with two big question marks: firstly, the creative director position at Louis Vuitton had been vacant since November 2021, and creative director Alessandro Michele's legacy at Gucci still had no successor when the year began. The latter changed on 28 January, when the Florentine fashion house presented its new creative director Sabato De Sarno.

February: The Louis Vuitton mystery is solved

The month of February once again started with news from Lacoste. The brand announced that it had found a figurehead for its "collaborative atelier model" in Pelagia Kolotouros as Creative Design Director. Kolotouros, who formerly worked for the Herzogenaurach-based sportswear company Adidas and oversaw the collaboration lines Ivy Park – with singer Beyoncé – and Pharrell Williams, has been appointed to lead Lacoste's creative studio.

There were also changes in Germany, as fashion designer Dirk Schönberger left MCM. Just a year earlier, he was promoted to global brand manager of the Munich-based label after joining MCM as Global Creative Officer in 2018.

One day after Dirk Schönberger's departure, the fashion industry's best-kept and most eagerly awaited secret was revealed. On 14 February, it was announced that Pharrell Williams would follow in Virgil Abloh's footsteps and take over the reins of the brands' menswear. Since then, the singer, music producer and designer's official title has been Men's Creative Director. As such, it has become Williams' task to consolidate the luxury brand's status as a "cultural maison".

Credits: ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

The industry didn't have much time to catch its breath, however, because no sooner had the mystery surrounding one of the most coveted creative positions been solved, another one opened up when Italian fashion house Moschino parted ways with creative director Jeremy Scott after ten years. Scott, who showed his first collection for Moschino during the FW14 presentations at Milan Fashion Week, emphasised how proud he was of his time at the brand and sparked speculation as to who might take over his colourful, ironic and playful legacy.

It took a while before the mystery surrounding Moschino's future would be solved for the time being, but first there was an update on Louise Trotter. The designer was appointed as the first head designer of French fashion label Carven since 2018. Her Carven debut a few months later, in September, signalled not only a fresh start for the brand, but also a return to the catwalk after a five-year absence from Paris Fashion Week.

March: End of the GmbH at Trussardi?

March was relatively quiet, but marked by a persistent rumour: Serhat Işık and Benjamin Huseby, the designer duo behind the Berlin label GmbH, reportedly left Trussardi after the brand initiated bankruptcy proceedings to reorganise itself. The news was never officially confirmed by Trussardi, but in an interview with Berlin fashion magazine 032c, the designer duo revealed that they are no longer working for the Italian brand.

Serhat Işık and Benjamin Huseby Credits: ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

April: Creative partnerships and expiring contracts

April saw one new addition and two departures in the industry.

Dunhill found a successor to Mark Weston in Simon Holloway, who brings "a deep and comprehensive understanding of English style" and reaffirms Dunhill's focus on British craftsmanship, innovation, functionality and masculine elegance.

Lanvin once again had to search for a suitable successor after the fashion house parted ways with creative director Bruno Sialelli after four years. Similar to Lacoste, Lanvin announced that the creative direction would in future be taken over by an international team for "creative partnerships" called 'Lanvin Lab'. Although creative partnerships are said to be the future of Lanvin, following the release of the first Lavin Lab collection with rapper Future, the brand announced that a new creative direction would be announced "shortly", but to date, no such announcement has been made.

Designer Charles de Vilmorin, whose contract with French fashion house Rochas expired after two years, had a little less time to prove himself. The young designer was appointed Creative Director of the house in 2021, after the then 24-year-old had made his debut during Paris Haute Couture Week a month earlier. After de Vilmorin's departure, there were also rumours at Rochas about a potential reorganisation towards a collaborative atelier model – but these would not be confirmed at the end of the year.

May: Helmut Lang comes back to life and fashion reveals its impatient side

The appointment of designer Peter Do as Creative Director of Helmut Lang was one that hardly anyone had expected. Since the eponymous Austrian designer Lang left his label in 2005, the creative responsibility of his minimalist legacy had been in many – often unsuccessful – hands. After four years without a creative director, Do was tasked to change course.

Bally showed just how quickly a label's trust in its creative leadership can fade when the Swiss fashion company parted ways with Creative Director Rhuigi Villaseñor after just over a year. He was supposed to take the traditional brand to the next level, but things didn't pan out. At the end of the month, however, Bally immediately gave clarity regarding the future of the brand and appointed Simone Bellotti as the new head designer. Bellotti had already been part of the Bally creative team since 2022 and was put in charge of the design team following the departure of Villaseñor. Like his predecessor, his task from then on was to drive forward the brand's new strategic direction.

Ludovic de Saint Sernin. Credits: Catwalkpictures

Ludovic de Saint Sernin had even less time to develop than Villaseñor. The young designer was appointed Creative Director at Ann Demeulemeester at the beginning of December 2022, showed his first collection in March and had to pack his bags just two months later. The reason for his unusually short guest appearance is said to have been differences between the brand's management and De Saint Sernin.

June: A new arrival and a return

No sooner had the first rumours about Saint Sernin's departure begun to circulate did Ann Demeulemeester confirm them with the appointment of a new creative director. On the first of June, the equally young Stefano Gallici was appointed to the role. Unlike De Saint Sernin, however, Gallici joined from within the ranks and has already been responsible for menswear at Ann Demeulemeester for the past three years.

In mid-June, it was also announced that Michelle Ochs, founder of womenswear brand Et Ochs, had been appointed to the role of Creative Director at Hervé Léger. The designer thus followed in the footsteps of Christian Juul Nielsen, who had held the position since 2018. At Fiorucci, on the other hand, there was a farewell, as designer Daniel Fletcher, who had been working for the Italian brand since 2019, announced that he would be leaving Fiorucci to focus on his label, Daniel W. Fletcher.

The designer duo Nana Aganovich and Brooke Taylor have announced their return to the world of fashion. The designer couple Aganovich were appointed to the creative helm of the WoodWood brand after announcing their temporary departure from the fashion world in July 2021.

July: Speculation is confirmed

In July, there were only two changes in the land of creative directors, but they were quite significant.

After weeks of speculation, Chloé confirmed that Gabriela Hearst would be leaving the French fashion house after three years as Creative Director. During her time, the designer had set a sustainable direction for Chloé and made the brand the first luxury fashion house with B-Corp certification.

Furthermore, the Italian fashion brand Tod's announced that its longstanding creative director Walter Chiapponi will be stepping down from his position.

August: Streetwear-Shake-up

After a quiet July, August also drew to a close without any personnel changes. On the last day of the month, however, it was announced that Supreme creative director Tremaine Emory was leaving the streetwear label, and with good reason. The creative, who was the first creative director after James Jebbia, the label's founder, accused the brand, which belongs to the US apparel giant VF Corporation, of systemic racism.

September: The end of an era after two decades

Similar to July, there was only one announcement in September, but it was a drastic one. Sarah Burton, who had been creative director of Alexander McQueen's eponymous brand since his death, announced her departure after a total of 26 years. This meant that not only one of the longest-serving creative directors in the industry was leaving the fashion house, but also the departure of one of the few women at the helm of a luxury fashion house.

Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen Credits: ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

October: Big shoes to fill

However, the industry didn't have to wait long to find out who would follow in Burton's footsteps at McQueen, as just three days after Burton's last fashion show for the brand, Seán McGirr was appointed to the role of Creative Director of McQueen. It is the first role at the helm of a major luxury house for the hitherto largely unknown designer, but the Irish-born creative has worked for various fashion houses throughout his career, including JW Anderson and Dries van Noten.

There was more time for speculation at Chloé, but after just under three months, clarity about the creative future of the brand finally became apparent – and here, too, the decision was made in favour of a name that had previously largely operated in the background. German designer Chemena Kamali has been appointed creative director of the French brand. She will present her first pre-fall collection in January. For the designer it was a return to Chloé, as she began her career at the fashion house, which belongs to the Swiss luxury goods group Richemont, under the direction of the then creative director Phoebe Philo.

Davide Renne Credits: Moschino / Alessio Bolzoni

Finally, Moschino also found a successor to Jeremy Scott in Davide Renne. The designer started in his new role as Creative Director a month later, at the beginning of November, but died just ten days later at the age of 46. The cause was not disclosed.

Blumarine announced an unforeseen departure at the end of October when it was announced that Creative Director Nicola Brognano was leaving the brand. Since his appointment in 2019, the designer had at least visually brought Blumarine back to the glory days of the early 2000s, particularly with many Y2K allusions.

November: Unexpected changes and new creative paths

From a classic Italian brand like Tod's to the Y2K label Blumarine? Apparently no problem for Walter Chiapponi, as he took over from Brognano and now defines the creative signature of Blumarine after leaving Tod's a few months earlier.

Walter Chiapponi for Blumarine Credits: Blumarine by Julia Von Der Heide

The Italian outdoor brand Napapijri also appointed a new creative director in November. Designer Christopher Raeburn was appointed Global Creative Director and is to help the brand "become more design-orientated and sophisticated". Something similar happened at Woolrich, as the outdoor outfitter's new black label line named designer Todd Snyder as creative director.

December: Final sweep before the end of the year

Many people use the last month of the year to finalise all the things they have planned for 2023 and it's a similar story in the fashion industry, as some brands are once again tidying up, or rather reorganising, before they start the new year.

At the beginning of the month, Givenchy announced that Creative Director Matthew Williams will be leaving the French fashion house at the start of next year. Williams, whose last collection for Pre-Fall 2024 has already been presented in the form of a lookbook, has contributed to the modernisation of the brand, which belongs to the luxury goods group LVMH, in his three years at Givenchy, according to the press release. In future, the founder of the 1017 Alyx 9SM brand will once again focus entirely on his own label.

Matthew WilliamsCredits: ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

Williams' successor could remain one of the few big questions that the fashion industry will take into the new year, as both Tod's and Rochas have announced them before the end of the year.

Tod's has brought Matteo Tamburini on board as Creative Director. The designated creative director has been working in the fashion industry since the early 2000s and most recently designed for Bottega Veneta for six years. At Tod's, he is now responsible for the men's and women's collections, just like his predecessor Walter Chiapponi.

Almost eight months after Charles de Vilmorin left Rochas, it was decided who would lead the brand in the future. Alessandro Vigilante was appointed head designer of the French luxury house and tasked with "writing a new chapter for the house based on boldness, femininity and sophistication". In addition to his new position, the Italian designer will also continue to focus on his eponymous label.

Davide Renne
Gabriela Hearst
Pharrell Williams
Sabato De Sarno
Sarah Burton
Sean McGirr