Here we go again: For the second time in less than five years, Dior is searching for a new couturier.
Successors to founder Christian Dior included Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano and Raf Simons, who resigned after the spring ready-to-wear show, leaving open a plum post right in the center of the fashion world.
This story first appeared in the November 18, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
As with all high-profile vacancies, opinions abound about the best candidate. WWD polled top retailers, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, and who almost unanimously put Alber Elbaz at the top of the list.
The acclaimed designer, who rejuvenated Lanvin, was recently pushed out by management, making him, along with Simons, among fashion’s most eligible unemployed.
Other possibilities range from the relatively obvious — Riccardo Tisci — to lesser-knowns such as Huishan Zhang, “who has an elegant feminine sensitivity,” said one retailer. The rundown on possible contenders:
1. ALBER ELBAZ
Pros: With his penchant for draping and creating new volumes, Elbaz is seen as a natural for couture, and someone who could gamely exalt and update the legacy of the house founder. Plus he enjoys the adulation of the world’s press and retailers.
Cons: Could an obvious choice be too, well, obvious for Dior? It could be argued that the company may be better choosing a designer in the modernist mold of Simons rather than change directions again.
2. RICCARDO TISCI
Pros: Givenchy’s star designer has the couture chops, the fame and the buzz factor. Plus, Dior poached Galliano from Givenchy back in 1996, meaning there’s a historical precedent between two houses controlled by French luxury titan Bernard Arnault.
Cons: Tisci has made Givenchy his own, adding a soupcon of dark romance to its aristocratic roots, and the house recently initiated a multifaceted expansion plan. Why upset the apple cart?
3. MARIA GRAZIA CHIURI & PIERPAOLO PICCIOLI
Pros: Valentino’s creative directors since 2008 have been on a major roll recently, winning acclaim for their graceful, refined and impeccable couture and rtw designs. Their background in accessories is an added bonus for Dior.
Cons: The designers seem inseparable from their beloved home city of Rome, and only recently began exploring fashion themes beyond Italy.
4. MARC JACOBS
Pros: The American designer propelled Louis Vuitton into the world of fashion as its inaugural artistic director, and proved he could stage exciting shows and create a variety of looks for the historic trunk maker.
Cons: Jacobs returned to the U.S. to devote himself fully to his signature brand and prepare the company for a stock market listing. Plus one of the bones of contention when he interviewed for Dior the last time was bringing his design team.
5. PHOEBE PHILO
Pros: She zhushed up Chloé, took a break, and then transformed Céline into one of the most powerful of the so-called second-tier brands at LVMH. “Philo connects on an intuitive, emotional level with the modern woman — what a perfect match for an archetypically feminine house like Dior,” noted one retailer.
Cons: Philo seems to have an allergy to Paris, and used to commute from London when she was at Chloé, and Céline moved design studios to London just for her.
6. NICOLAS GHESQUIERE
Pros: A star with experience in both apparel and accessories, he was a game-changer for Balenciaga, where he approached couture levels with his rtw, and for Vuitton, where he’s showing off his more commercial side.
Cons: With only a year-and-a-half as creative director for Vuitton, is it too early for a move? And would LVMH jeopardize its linchpin, cash-cow brand with another creative shakeup?
7. JACK MCCOLLOUGH & LAZARO HERNANDEZ
Pros: The boys behind Proenza Schouler are considered among the most promising young designers in America, blessed with talent, star power, chic and an experimental, daring bent. Sources said they were interviewed already by Dior following Galliano’s ouster in 2011.
Cons: They only recently brought on private equity firm Castanea Partners as a minority partner, and are seeking a new ceo. Plus LVMH, which had also been looking to invest in the New York-based fashion house, walked away from the table.
8. MARCO DE VINCENZO
Pros: “Technical craftsmanship is important to him, and he could offer Dior a new and futuristic take on femininity,” said one retailer, also trumpeting de Vincenzo’s strong experience working on accessories for Fendi. He’s well known to the LVMH group, which has invested in his Milan-based signature brand.
Cons: He has only a few years of experience in apparel, and Dior is a significant player. Plus the group may wish to leave things as they are, as Fendi has been on a strong growth path.
9. JOSEP FONT
Pros: The creative head of Delpozo is known for his impeccable craftsmanship and technique. WWD called his spring collection “a couturelike dream of rich imagination, inventive constructions and remarkable craft.”
Cons: The Madrid-based designer is not well-known — and Dior tends to look up to the stars — and he has limited experience in accessories.
10. JONATHAN ANDERSON
Pros: The ascendant designer would bring a fresh perspective, and he’s already part of the LVMH family. The French group simultaneously invested in his signature brand and tapped him as creative director of Loewe. “He could bring a consistent vision and a common creative language for men and women and that would be very exciting for Dior,” said one retailer.
Cons: His namesake brand, which is just getting off the ground, could suffer if he were to take on such a daunting role. And he may be too rooted in the now to carry the torch for a brand steeped in heritage.
11. THOMAS TAIT
Pros: His sculptural, clean design sensibility and obsession with shape, structure and immaculate tailoring could be promising for a couture house like Dior. He won the inaugural LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Design in 2014, so his rigor and inventiveness are no secret to the group.
Cons: The young Canadian has only had experience running his very small London-based label, and it could be a stretch to fit into the Dior machine. He’s also stated a lack of interest in becoming a “celebrity fashion designer” and willfully eschews many of fashion’s traditional trappings.
12. OLIVIER ROUSTEING
Pros: A master of social media, Balmain’s creative director has 1.7 million followers on Instagram — and various Kardashians and top models on speed dial. His one-off Balmain collection for H&M unleashed pandemonium, and he’s known for labor-intensive designs with a couture touch.
Cons: His showy and sexy clothes, borrowing bling and excess from the Eighties, would represent an about-face for Dior. And the 30-year-old might be a bit green to shoulder the pressures of an institution like Dior.