Left brain-right brain. In the world of fashion and luxury goods these days, one needs both sides to beat the competition.
But is analytical ability more important than the creative side? Are talents in business more key than being able to cut, sew and tailor? In short, is the designer more important than the chief executive officer, or vice versa?
It's a $64 million — or, these days, given the size of fashion conglomerates, $6.4 billion — question. Unquestionably, there have been a handful of successful partnerships between designer and ceo. They include Calvin Klein and Barry Schwartz; Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole; Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé; Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti; Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg; Reed Krakoff and Lew Frankfort; Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli, and Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy, just to name a few.
Their respective companies often are seen as among the epitomes of success in fashion and luxury goods. Without each others' talents and a strong partnership, their businesses never would have flourished the way they did.
Then there are those rare companies where a designer is really in charge, such as Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren, who is both chairman and ceo of Polo, although he has had strong partners in Peter Strom and, now, Roger Farah.
However, in some companies, the designer has the upper hand — think Oscar de la Renta or Dolce & Gabbana — while in others, it's the ceo. Ceo's are increasingly coming to the fore as private equity firms and other outside investors come into the fashion world, often with a focus more on the bottom line than on the creative talent.
So which model is the best? Here's how the industry weighed in on the topic:
"It's the 'we,' not the 'me.' It's not 'either-or,' it's 'and.' Unless they're in sync with one another, neither one could do their job. Neither one could be successful."Robert Polet, president and ceo, Gucci Group
"It's a real marriage of equals. It is when you combine long-term business sense with independent but guided creativity at the service of a particular brand. It's this combination that makes it very, very fruitful. I would estimate that in all very successful brands, there would have been this seamless cooperation with a business sense, a merchandising sense, a customer service sense and a creative point of view."
Hermès is launching a Laundromat pop-up shop in NYC - dubbed Hermèsmatic - where customers can bring their old scarves to be dip-dyed by an expert. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews (📷: @donstahl)