Business

Whirl of Turnover in 2017 for Top of Fashion World

Posted December 28, 2017 7:49 p.m. EST

The managerial musical chairs at the top of the fashion and other luxury industries reached newly feverish levels in 2017: Every month of the year — save August, when most companies go on vacation — saw at least one big shake-up. And a big announcement came just days before Christmas: Phoebe Philo of Céline was leaving the brand after a decade as artistic director.

In part, the reshuffling is because of the shifting balance of power between creative and corporate executives; designers and creative directors appear to be gaining more control and territory than ever as brands combat the challenges of more collections, more demanding consumers and more competition than ever before. Managing a company matters, but design that reflects a distinct point of view may now matter just as much, if not more.

The middle-market brands continue to be hit by shifts in the retail landscape and the omnipresence of Amazon, while at the upper end of the spectrum, currency fluctuations and recovering emerging markets have been highlighting the triumphs — or pitfalls — in specific boardroom strategies.

Here, a chronology of some of the biggest hirings and firings of the year:

January

The upheaval started early, and at one of the best-known retailers. First, after three years as design director at Tiffany & Co., Francesca Amfitheatrof left to “pursue other opportunities”; her efforts to woo millennials and offer more fashion-forward collections failed to spur sales at the famed U.S. jeweler. Into the frame stepped Reed Krakoff, the former executive creative director of Coach, who despite having no experience in jewelry was appointed to the newly created role of chief artistic officer.

February

Then, only weeks later and just hours before Tiffany debuted its first Super Bowl ad, Frederic Cumenal abruptly left the company as chief executive, a move that followed disappointing financial results and a lack of investor confidence. His replacement, Alessandro Bogliolo, the former chief executive of Diesel, arrived in October.

Less than two years into the job as chief executive of Ralph Lauren, Stefan Larsson quit after a falling out with Lauren, saying that he and the group’s founder had clashed over how to evolve “product, marketing and shopping experience.” The startling shake-up came at a crucial moment for one of the world’s iconic brands.

Riccardo Tisci left the French fashion label after 12 years as its creative director. After rampant speculation that he would move to join Versace, he has yet to join another house.

March

In one of the worst-kept secrets of the year, Clare Waight Keller joined Givenchy from Chloé, replacing Tisci. At Chloé, the Richemont-owned fashion house known for its airy bohemian style and which is in the midst of ambitious expansion plans, her position was filled by Natacha Ramsay-Levi, the former right-hand woman of Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton.

April

After three years as creative director, Rodolfo Paglialunga left Jil Sander, the house owned by the Japanese fashion conglomerate Onward Holdings. The husband-and-wife designers Luke and Lucie Meier were hired to replace Paglialunga in April; it is the first time they have worked together.

May

To replace Larsson, Ralph Lauren appointed Patrice Louvet, a Procter & Gamble veteran, and gave him the task of continuing the difficult turnaround effort amid falling sales, layoffs and the changing U.S. retail landscape.

Roberto Cavalli, the beleaguered Italian fashion house, appointed Paul Surridge as creative director after the exit of Peter Dundas the previous October.

June

After presiding over a meteoric rise (and fall) in fortunes for J. Crew, Mickey Drexler announced he was stepping down from the helm of the preppy apparel retailer. His departure followed several years of falling sales and a heavy debt load after he had pushed the brand upmarket. He was replaced by Jim Brett, the president of the furniture company West Elm. Drexler’s departure after 14 years at J. Crew came less than three months after its longtime design director Jenna Lyons left the brand.

July

After just 16 months as Lanvin’s creative director, Bouchra Jarrar left the ailing French fashion house. She had had a falling out with Lanvin’s Taiwanese owner and was struggling with the internal fallout created by the departure of her predecessor, Alber Elbaz. Jarrar was succeeded by Olivier Lapidus, a fixture on the French design scene for decades, who promptly unveiled plans to turn it into the French version of Michael Kors. His first collection, shown in September at Paris Fashion Week, was poorly received.

September

After a quiet August in the fashion world, J. Crew was back in the news this month when Somsack Sikhounmuong, who had replaced Lyons as the head of design, left the company.

October

Just 11 months into his role as design director for womenswear, Fulvio Rigoni left Ferragamo after a tepid reaction to his collections. Paul Andrew, formerly the Italian group’s design director for accessories, is now creative director for women’s collections.

After 17 years with Burberry, Christopher Bailey announced that he would leave Britain’s iconic luxury group in March 2018. Bailey, who had been widely credited with transforming the brand from a local heritage name to a global fashion powerhouse, had stumbled in recent years in the joint role of creative director and chief executive, as Burberry weathered the effects of currency volatility, slowdown in China and overexpansion.

Marco Gobbetti, the well-regarded head of Céline, came on board in July to replace Bailey as chief executive. Bailey’s departure (with no indication of what he will do next) opens up one of the most coveted designer roles in the fashion world. Many industry watchers think Philo, the British designer, will get the job.

November

After almost two decades as chief executive of Dior, Sidney Toledano moved within LVMH to become executive chairman of the LVMH fashion group. He replaced Pierre-Yves Roussel, who moved into a new position as special adviser to the group chairman and chief executive, Bernard Arnault. And Pietro Beccari, who has been praised for his steering of the Italian fashion house Fendi, was hired to replace Toledano as head of Dior. The reshuffling came six months after LVMH had consolidated its control over Dior, buying out minority investors in a $13.1 billion deal.

Having spent almost a decade as creative director, Deborah Lloyd exited Kate Spade less than six months after the brand was bought by Tapestry Inc. She will be replaced by Nicola Glass, who currently oversees the accessories division at Michael Kors.

December

First, after four years at the helm of Mugler, David Koma stepped down to focus on his namesake label, which is based in London. Casey Cadwallader, most recently the design director for pre-collections at Acne Studios, replaced him and started in the role Dec. 1.

Next, after just three seasons as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, and despite critical acclaim for his collections, Jonathan Saunders abruptly left the New York-based fashion house, which is on the hunt for new investors to fund its expansion efforts. The move was seen as yet another failure by a founder in the fashion world to successfully hand over the reins to a new generation of leadership.

Less than a week later, Nicola Formichetti stepped down from his post as the creative director of Diesel. The Italian-Japanese designer, a onetime stylist for Lady Gaga who joined Diesel as its first artistic director in 2013, announced that he would be leaving at the end of the year. Diesel has yet to name a successor.

Finally, last Friday, Philo announced she was leaving Céline, a house she reinvigorated, remaking it in her own image.