Will the Creative Director Epidemic Continue Into 2024?

Hypebeast breaks down the year’s shifting directorial roles at major fashion Houses while examining the new dawn of fashion spearheaded by young designers taking on major positions.

Fashion 
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2023 has been an emotional whirlwind in and outside the fashion industry. The year has delivered several unexpected changes, with a plethora of Creative Directors leaving their posts for new opportunities or career shifts. Over recent months, long-lasting designers, including Jeremy Scott and Sarah Burton, have ended their lengthy tenures at historic fashion Houses, while the fresh eyes of Seán McGirr and the late Davide Renne took their places with an altered vision.

Week after week, another iconic name leaves its post for something new. The industry entered a new era in 2023, commissioning young creatives to helm decade-old labels.

Late last year, Alessandro Michele concluded his eight-year run at Gucci with a prideful bow, announcing that Italian designer Sabato De Sarno would take his place. His Milan Fashion Week debut was a marvelous occasion that garnered international attention, welcoming thousands of onlookers to experience the runway show. He took over the Gucci Hub on a rainy day in Milan to recall the brand’s century-old roots while celebrating the small joys in life. De Sarno has over 20 years of experience under his belt, but his debut was met with major criticism as he strayed away from Michele’s whimsical approach. While viewers were quick to judge, the designer kept things honest and simple and steered away from virality, which cements creative directors amongst digital generations.

In February, designer and musician Pharrell Williams was made Virgil Abloh’s successor at Louis Vuitton 14 months after his passing, opening a controversial conversation about lost talent who deserved the role. Williams’ Paris Fashion Week showcase was the largest on the calendar, garnering over 1 billion views worldwide. The unforgettable night curated a slew of iconic Louis Vuitton items with a street-heavy approach, celebrating the success of Abloh’s creative mind. Guests sprung at his feet throughout the show, seeing a celebrity with little to no design training praised for his star-studded debut on name and clout alone. With attendance from Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, and Lewis Hamilton, the runway was buzzed with excitement while the looks reinterpreted House codes with Gen-Z appeal that mirrored Abloh’s trademark techniques.

This was only the beginning of fashion’s next era. Fresh, generational talent has entered the industry’s golden gates, tapping into current youth culture with unprecedented potential. 27-year-old Stefano Gallici replaced Ludovic de Saint Sernin as Creative Director of Ann Demeulemeester after one season at the House, while Uruguayan designer Gabriela Hearst departed Chloé after three years ahead of Chemena Kamali‘s entrance and succeeded her leading role at Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent.

While running his namesake label, established London-based designer Daniel W. Fletcher was named Fiorucci’s Creative Director in January 2020, revamping the classic imprint into a fully-fledged dynasty. The Next In Fashion competitor bid farewell to Fiorucci in June 2023, leaving a vacant position that hasn’t been filled. Fletcher has yet to plunge somewhere new, but speculation has risen that he will soon enter a new role in the British capital.

Davide Renee’s appointment tragically closed the year, suddenly passing away days after bearing the position. Following Jeremy Scott‘s 10-year reign at Moschino, his leadership role was left vacant, seeing Aeffe chairman Massimo Ferretti gift Renee full confidence to continue his predecessor’s legacy. His death left the coveted job open, allowing ambitious designers to step in and show their skills.

Illinois-born designer Matthew M Williams unexpectedly departed Givenchy days before the holiday season. The 1017 ALYX 9SM founder held the directorial position for four years, revamping Givenchy with punk-led designs that upheld elegance through formal tailoring. His efforts were well noted, but he fell short when pushing Givenchy back under youthful spotlights. His departure is scheduled for January 1, leading the LVMH-owned House into an uncertain period. Givenchy history with renowned designers is no secret, with Riccardo Tisci holding the position for 12 years. Williams’s departure opens an opportunity for more youthful outlooks, which is what the brand needs to reinvigorate its standing in 2024.

The plethora of newly abandoned and opened roles has given young talent a chance to shine. Take Seán McGirr — a Central Saint Martins graduate joining his first directorial role at Alexander McQueen. He will lead the British brand into a new chapter, following his work at JW Anderson, Dries Van Noten, and Uniqlo. The role will allow McGirr to experiment with classic silhouettes in untried ways, succeeding Sarah Burton’s 26-year stint at the House. While several brands have opened their hearts to new designers, their appointments will shape the future of fashion for decades to come. They will train and inform the next generation of graduating designers, who will eventually become the ruling victors of their time.

Out with the old and in with the new, said the fashion industry in 2023. We’re here for it, but will the reset continue into 2024?

The new year will bring plenty of nuanced creativity, seeing newly-appointed designers debut at Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks in February 2024. For the first time, several Houses will show without leadership, being asked to craft collections by their respective in-house teams. But time has shown that backstage leaders shine under pressure, often returning to the brand’s roots for inspiration. From post-Michele Gucci to Moschino’s Spring/Summer 2024 anniversary play, design teams have historically looked back to propel themselves forward while awaiting fresh guidance.

The shift is a step in the right direction and permits new talent to shine bright while expelling Millennial experts and giving them the freedom to choose new avenues. Will the cycle repeat itself in 2024, or will vacant Houses look to recent graduates for inspiration? A new dawn is upon us, so sit back, relax, and get ready to feast your eyes on a new chapter of innovation for the fashion industry.

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