WHO will replace Christophe Decarnin at Balmain?

07 April 2011

Cathy Horyn writing in the New York Times has hinted that Christophe Decarnin’s departure from the fashion house he made into such a success may be because of, rather than despite, the glory years of Balmania, and the consequent pressure to come up with a new, equally profitable formula.

‘Despite, or perhaps because of, a phenomenal run at Balmain, where he made ripped jeans and $5,000 motorcycle jackets seem the coolest thing since, well, Bardot and Brando, Mr. Decarnin hit some kind of personal impasse and lost control of the label.’

“The pressures on fashion designers” and “the treadmill of shows” have been phrases used with increasing frequency lately. Not only regarding Decarnin, but as possible explanations for Lee McQueen’s suicide or John Galliano’s high profile self-destruction. It’s true to say that designers working at the level of any of these three men are rewarded for their efforts in line with their achievements, but is there something in the idea that we as the consumers of both fashion and fashion media do expect the impossible from the people we hold up as “geniuses” when they reach the top of the profession?

It’s true that the aesthetic of retro ‘80’s glitz and glamour that Balmain embodied in such an uncompromising way had fallen out of vogue somewhat, and on one level, surely any designer worth their salt can come up with a new concept, or develop the brand DNA in a way to keep up with the changing times? Well yes it is, and yet how many of us would react with aplomb to such demands on our creativity and skill?

Ms Horyn, who knows M. Decarnin personally, also points to the fact that he is a ‘shy and introverted,’ individual, who ‘may have been more vulnerable than others to that pressure.’ We will watch and wait and see whether Decarnin will chose to re-enter the fashion fray, or if he’ll go the way of Helmut Lang (who is now an artist), or Hedi Slimane (photographer).

One more thing – the successor to Decarnin is thought to be someone already working at Balmain, a former member of his team. Horyn wonders if this will turn out to be British stylist, Melanie Ward. She is an extremely interesting character, who made her name styling Kate Moss, and working with the photographer Corine Day, as part of a sort of dynamic trio. WATCH THIS SPACE, readers!

- Naomi Attwood


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