Virgil Abloh broke the mold in terms of the skill set a creative director can and should have.
A mastermind behind the Off-White brand and Louis Vuitton’s explosive menswear business, the late designer has become a leading role model for fashion students due to his interdisciplinary, inclusive and community-oriented approach to fashion.Istituto Marangoni’s Paris school.
Equally popular is Japanese streetwear pioneer Nigo, who is now the creative director of Kenzo. Berdah-Levy described himself as a multi-hyphen with tentacles that span music production, industrial or graphic design, and DJing, as was Abloh.
“Students love multi-creative minds and talent who are not just fashion designers but have many passions,” she said.
The same is true for recruitment specialists. The headhunter says the fashion house is increasingly looking for creative leaders with internet attention, enviable creative networks, and the ability to inspire communities.
They stress that formidable design chops and industry buzz are still key ingredients to landing top jobs in the fashion industry. They also point out that the second-in-command designer often has his tracks inside, as evidenced by the recent appointment of Mathieu Blazey to replace Daniel Lee at Bottega Veneta. .
But there is no doubt that influence and cultural connection are increasingly important attributes in fashion.
For example, consider artist Daniel Arsham, who recently launched his own clothing and accessories brand, Objects IV Life, after several collaborations with Kim Jones at Dior. He boasts 1.3 million followers on Instagram.
According to Floriane de Saint Pierre, Founder and Principal of Floriane de Saint Pierre & Associés, brands today must have social media influence to lead the game.
“Social networks and accelerated use due to COVID[-19] With lockdowns and travel restrictions, we are living in an attention economy more than ever, making attention a scarce commodity and a valuable commodity,” she explained in an interview. “Without attention, brands cannot create desires and, as a result, sell neither dreams nor products.”
De Saint Pierre said today’s creative directors can have different skill sets to attract consumers.
In her view, they are educated with more classical fashion backgrounds, such as Phoebe Philo, Demna of Balenciaga, and recently appointed Salvatore Ferragamo Maximilian Davis, or other creative fields. It may have come from
An example of a largely self-taught fashion entrepreneur is Nigo, a record producer and DJ who created the A Bathing Ape and Human Made brands before joining Kenzo. Teddy Santis is credited with incorporating his love of New York’s 90s hip-hop scene and pickup basketball culture into his burgeoning Aimée Leon Doré brand, and his storytelling across several industries before founding Denim. Tremaine Emory, who is in tears, has a creative role on Supreme.
De Saint Pierre calls them all “ambitious social catalysts” and leaders of inspiring brands whose customers “feel part of the community of values they want to belong to.”
“It goes without saying that the product must represent those values. she added.
Indeed, many of the prominent and celebrated fashion designers of the last 50 years, such as Karl Lagerfeld, Miuccia Prada, Vivienne Westwood, Manolo Blahnik, were mostly self-taught or came from other fields such as architecture, and Pierre Cardin and Gianfranco Ferre.
However, the advent of social media has changed the dynamics of the industry, allowing creatives to interact directly with their audiences rather than through gatekeepers such as editors and retailers. At the same time, the purpose, values and message behind the brand have become important qualities alongside aesthetics and design.
Abloh was also a renowned architect, and Off-White chose stylist and editor Ibrahim Kamara as his de facto successor.
Kamala, editor-in-chief of Dazed magazine, has been part of the Off-White family for many years, styling the brand’s shows. Prior to her top position at Dazed, she produced editorials for magazines such as iD, System, Vogue Italia, and Another, producing rich visuals that weave diverse cultural references and questions about gender and identity into high fashion. garnered attention for its storytelling.
Kamara has 246,000 Instagram followers.
Celebrity entourages also cannot be discounted.
NIGO’s Kenzo’s debut show last January earned the brand $6.6 million in Media Impact Value, ranking it among the top three most influential shows at Paris Fashion Week, according to a Launchmetrics tally. “The show’s star-studded front row is a major media buzz, with various hip-hop artists such as Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Tyler, The Creator being mentioned in more than 50% of the brand’s associated placements. ”, Data and Insights Company.
Emma Davidson, managing director of London search firm Denza Limited, said her clients are looking for clout, even influencers, for creative search.
“I got this specifically from a huge Italian luxury maison who said, ‘I want someone like Olivier Rousteing. Pictures with all the hot girls.We want the hype.This was about eight years ago.”Since then, it has escalated as different apps that connect brands with audiences have become popular.” I went.”
Davidson cited a number of ancillary considerations that make creative hiring increasingly complex.
“Representation of minorities in the industry, sustainability, designer brand/DNA, designer background including issues of bad press, available budget, ‘does the story work’, do celebrity friendships favor There are so many things, such as fashion. Collective politics,” she enumerated.
She said candidates with “strong creative networks well suited for collaboration” are also attractive.
Davidson also praised Bottega Veneta’s Blazees as an example and argued for internal promotion. Virginie Viard’s promotion at Chanel after Karl Lagerfeld’s death in 2019 and Alessandro Michele’s rise to fame within Gucci’s design studio are other notable examples.
“It’s called sustainable hiring. There should be more in the business plan,” she said. “Companies invest a lot of time and money in people. Labor is a huge expense and should be treated like gold. These people have the expertise, the understanding of their DNA. They need to be hired wisely, trained in-house, and have a staff retention plan,” she said. “I’m very much in favor of investing in people.”
De Saint Pierre argued that there is no single recipe for success in today’s fashion.
“To become or remain influential, we are probably seeing two parallel models. “There are long-term burners.” Catalysts and voices in today’s society….Their role is to be the visual representation of brands and their values at the heart of today’s society.”
The fashion school has evolved its curriculum to reflect the changing profile of creative directors, with influence and keen communication skills among new elements. For example, at the Istituto Marangoni in Paris, sophomores are tasked with creating and managing professional Instagram profiles.
“They have to learn how to present and communicate their concepts and creations, and how to capture attention in collections,” explains Berdah-Levy. “They can experiment with the communicative possibilities of the metaverse and games.We also work with students from other programs, such as business and fashion styling, to help them develop additional skills.” .
“We push these interdisciplinary projects, so they’re not just design-centric,” she added.
Berdah-Levy said design skills continue to be paramount, with clothing having to be “customer-oriented” yet “exciting and desirable” enough to excite celebrities and influencers. emphasized.
But today’s creative directors cannot operate in an ivory tower. “Designers need to be visible, accessible, have a global vision and knowledge of all the ingredients a collection needs to be successful. But designers are also influencers. ‘ she said.
So the Istituto Marangoni invited Louise Parent and others. Geraldine Bubril aka Erin Off Duty. Learn how Loulou De Saison and her Léna Mahfouf, better known as her Léna Situations, have built their following and business in the fashion sector. “I like to tell students first that this is real work and that they are working hard to get this level of recognition and empowerment,” she said Berdah-Levy. .
Besides Abloh and Nigo, Marine Serre, Balmain’s Rousteing, Simon Porte Jacquemus (the latter with 4.9 million followers on Instagram) are also very much loved by students, and Rick Owens is a dark horse favourite, strong fashion. Seen as an outsider with an identity.
“They like the idea that fashion designers have different passions and are creative in fields other than fashion.” .”