02 March 2011

Who will succeed Galliano at Dior?

‘As far as Dior is concerned, I wouldn’t worry too much. It won’t be difficult for them to find new talent — it’s every designer’s dream to create for Dior,’ senior business analyst, Luca Solca, told WWD. ‘And I don’t think Galliano’s comments will damage the brand. It is important for Dior to choose the right creative director — and it will definitely be a breath of fresh air. This has also been free advertising for the brand.’

Fashion folk, including Grazia Daily, think Mr Galliano might prove slightly harder to replace. It’s certainly true that there are strong talents coming through the next generation of designers, more than a few of the names being touted around this week – BUT! the process of ‘succession’ in fashion is one that rarely runs smoothly.

When John Galliano joined Givenchy as the house’s founder went into retirement, he became the first Brit ever to head up a French couture house. His appointment to Dior 2 years later, set the template for other brands to look to the hothouse of London talent for already established brands, and Galliano’s appointment by Bernard Arnault was so successful in reinvigorating the brand and reviving its financial fortunes that nowadays we all think of that model as the norm.

In reality not all young designers have found the transition from dirty London to gilded Paris so harmonious. Look at Givenchy – now Riccardo Tisci is well into his stride but before his appointment, Alexander McQueen was made miserable and poor Julien Macdonald failed to knit his way to glory. As for the House of Emmanuel Ungaro – well, the words "Lindsay Lohan" still have the power to make many a fashion editor shudder beneath her fox stole thinking back to the collection she produced in Paris in 2009 with much maligned Spanish designer Estrella Archs.  Even Donatella Versace took several seasons to find her way when she succeeded her late brother as creative director of the brand, although now it is hard to imagine she ever lacked the confidence to do it.

Now - let’s look at the runners and riders. A number of editors are tipping Riccardo Tisci, currently creative director of Givenchy, for the job. At 36, his fashion is a mix of  impeccable elegance with a shot of goth romance. As well as his design credentials, Givenchy is also a brand in the LVMH stable, so he would only need to be promoted, rather than poached from a rival group.

Also owned by M. Arnault of LVMH are Celine, designed by Pheobe Philo and Louis Vuitton, headed by Marc Jacobs, who is said to have been a possible alternative to John way back in the ‘90’s, though now seems very well suited to the monogrammed mega-brand.

Beyond the LVMH group, there is Alber Elbaz of Lanvin. He would be an extremely desirable choice – his ultra feminine designs would seem a nice fit for Christian Dior and his choice of muse – from Julianne Moore to J-Lo are more mainstream than the high class misfits singled out by Tiscilike transsexual model Lea T, or off-the-rails rocker Courtney Love. When you think about Dior being the man who designed the "New Look" in the 1950's, and how perfectly Galliano's over the top costumes echoed that heyday of feminine glamour, it is quite a jump to imagine many of today's couturiers taking over that mantle.

Other names that sound very interesting to us are Peter Copping – now head of design at Nina Ricci and previously at Louis Vuitton during Marc Jacob’s first couple of years. The usual "musical chairs" suspects, Haider Ackermann (the man Karl Lagerfeld would like to replace him at Chanel) and Hedi Slimane – Dior’s former head of menswear, who revolutionised the male silhouette in the ‘90’s and brought in "skinny rocker chic" but who then left designer to persue his career as a photographer are both possibilities, as is Kris Van Assche, the current designer of Dior homme, although none of these have the ring of truth to us. (!)

In the world of fantasy fashion houses, we think the Rodarte sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy have long odds, BUT they already have had two strange tip-offs towards this position. Anna Wintour very recently told a reporter that to her, they represented the most talented of the current generation, the most like ‘the next Galliano or McQueen’ plus; Natalie Portman, the "face" of Dior Beauty, who, until Sunday, had been expected to wear a Dior dress by John Galliano for the Oscars, stepped onto the red carpet in a magenta Rodarte gown. Tom Ford would make a wonderful creative director, but is probably the least easy to persuade man in the industry, seeing how he is only two seasons into his own womenswear business, having invested his own fortune into the venture, in order that he won’t have to listen to any corporate backers when it comes to doing everything his own way.

If a Brit were to be offered it, we'd like to recommend Erdem or even Christpher Kane - although they are both forward, rather than backward looking in their aesthetic tastes. According to some reports, Galliano himself has engaged lawyers to fight for himself to be reinstated . . . so at the moment, all bets are very much still on!

Who would YOU like to see succeed John Galliano as Head Designer at the House of Dior?

- Naomi Attwood


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