The Flight of the Creative Director

If you aren’t suffering major anxiety from the departure of multiple masterminds from their given fashion houses, then play this Rimsky-Kosakov classic to get your heart rate racing.

Recently, some of the most acclaimed and influential fashion houses have lost their Creative Directors. Where are they going? Why are they leaving? What can we do to make this terror end?


Since mid-summer, the world of fashion has been hit hard by the announcements of Alexander Wang leaving Balenciaga, Raf Simons departing Dior, and Alber Elbaz stepping down from Lanvin. While Simons’ and Elbaz’s decisions were personal, Wang’s departure was agreed upon by both the designer and the label.

Wang and Simons are both stepping down from their labels after three years with the companies. However, Elbaz’s departure is after a fourteen-year tenure at Lanvin.

We lack specific information as to why the three designers are leaving. However, there is a common thread through it all. The three seem to be unpleased with what the role of a Creative Director has turned into. Elbaz, Simons, and Wang appear to be stretched thin and losing creative license.

In the past decade there have been dozens of cases of Creative Directors leaving their fashion houses. As written in the New York Times, “fashion is now on a slippery slop of its own making that began with Tom Ford’s departure from Gucci Group in 2003. It was…first seen as a dire event and latterly introduced the ascension of the brand: the idea that I was the house that mattered, and the designer served that master.” Is fashion no longer about the designer masterminds and instead of who can maintain the label’s status?

FAREWELL: Alexander Wang FROM: Balenciaga 


Alexander Wang’s Balenciaga neither thrived nor left a lasting legacy. As multiple sources stated, the label under Wang was just “OK.” Yes, he created a signature bag and a new scent, but never produced memorable and jaw-dropping silhouettes in his clothing. For his final runway, Wang showed a drape-y all-white Spring-Summer 2016 Collection in Paris, featuring netted bedroom slippers, satin bustier tops, and actress Zoe Kravitz.

FAREWELL: Raf Simons FROM: Christian Dior


Christian Dior shone under the leadership of Raf Simons. In his three and a half year role as Creative Director, Simons both pushed the limits while also growing sales by about 60% since 2011. He designed with the idea that fashion should be wearable. Simons’ Dior will be remembered for his extraordinary shows and innovative mixture of futurism, minimalism, and femininity. Raf Simons’s final collection, Spring Summer 2016 Ready-to-Wear, for Christian Dior was shown during Paris Fashion Week inside a delphinium-covered mountain in the courtyard of the Louvre. Simons sent light, scalloped designs down his runway that mixed both mixed both masculine and feminine qualities.

There is too much pressure on the Creative Directors to create six show-stopping collections a year in addition to several revolutionary campaigns. In a recent interview with Cathy Horyn, Raf Simons opened up on his decision to leave Christian Dior.

“When you do six shows a year, there’s not enough time for the whole process,” he explains. “Technically, yes — the people who make the samples, do the stitching, they can do it. But you have no incubation time for ideas, and incubation time is very important. When you try an idea, you look at it and think, Hmm, let’s put it away for a week and think about it later. But that’s never possible when you have only one team working on all the collections.”

Simons’—previously of Dior—tried to remedy this problem by creating two design teams. The teams would be working on separate collections—one working on ready-to-wear and the other on couture—in the three to five weeks given to complete a project. Each team consisted of six or seven designers. However, the former Creative Director says this still was not a solution for the lack of time and the increase in pressure.

FAREWELL: Alber Elbaz FROM: Lanvin


Alber Elbaz announced in late October that he was stepping down from his fourteen year long career at Lanvin as Creative Director. His simple aesthetic and attention to real women’s bodies and low profile rejuvenated the century old name. Elbaz’s Lanvin became a favorite among the stars. His designs also incorporated his personal style, as seen in the “shimmering gold, provocative ruffles, and daring one-shoulder looks.” The former Lanvin designer presented his final collection for the fashion house as a staged show. He sent his pieces down the runway in “acts,” grouping similarly designed garments together. This SS16 collection maintained the designer’s language—provocative and loud while also minimalistic. This theater-like runway was Alber Elbaz’s manifesto of what he believed fashion has evolved into today.

Sadly, there have been rumors of Phoebe Philo looking to leaving Céline in the near future for personal reasons. As fashion enthusiasts, is there an end to this trend? Ought we to demand less of our Creative Directors or should we settle and accept this as the new language?

 Images from

– GW

1 comment on “The Flight of the Creative Director”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *