Fashion’s designer carousel keeps on turning. But when will it stop—and who will be in charge of what?
This morning Ermenegildo Zegna confirmed the heavily trailered news that Stefano Pilati has bowed his last for the “Couture” incarnation of the Trivero-based menswear titan. Pilati’s exit comes hot on the heels of two more notable menswear design adieus: This week, Alessandro Sartori parted ways with Berluti and Brendan Mullane moved on from Brioni. Add to these the womenswear vacancies at Dior (post–Raf Simons) and Lanvin (post–Alber Elbaz) and what you have right now is an abundance of top-tier houses without a nominated creative hand on the tiller. What a time to be alive if you are a recruitment consultant specializing in the fashion industry!
So: Whither Pilati? His experience as creative director at Yves Saint Laurent during an eight-year reign between Tom Ford and Hedi Slimane makes him an incredibly versatile candidate. One could—and many people have been —link him to almost any role out there (as well as some that currently aren’t).
When CEO Gildo Zegna announced Pilati’s appointment in late 2012, he said: “We will be able to combine our tradition in tailoring and our leadership in innovative materials with a new vision for men’s fashion.” Mission accomplished: The much-loved designer’s three-year, single-contract stint developing a “Couture” line was certainly a critical success. What went less well was the then-headline simultaneous appointment of Pilati as creative director of Agnona, Zegna’s womenswear label. The declared intention that Pilati turn “this little jewel into a global brand” barely got off the ground—which seemed a great pity. (Simon Holloway is now in charge.)
Back to that carousel. Speculating as to who will go where is profoundly unclassy. And such questions of personnel are less compelling than the wider conundrum of which they are symptomatic: What friction between designer and house is leading to such a high turnover of talent?
Surely the answer can’t be as shallow as “fashion’s become so fast.” These designers, although rightly lionized as creative auteurs, are in truth heaped with gifted ancillary staff to help them realize their collections. The truth must lie, far less glibly, in an increasing disconnect between the ambitions of the houses and those of the designers they hire. Conclusion: Don’t count on that carousel slowing down anytime soon—although the labels should pretty soon start swiping right as well as left.
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