On one side, legendary fashion houses; on the other, a pool of creative talent. Between the two, a delicate equation, a subtle alchemy.
A subtle alchemy
One which enables our brands to constantly reinvent themselves, but never compromise their identity. At LVMH, it’s all about being avant-garde yet true to tradition – an ethos that requires visionaries who can stay a step ahead. When, back in 1996, the singular John Galliano was appointed Women’s Creative Director at Dior, it was a bold and historic move – for the first time, a designer was being asked, not merely to perpetuate the heritage of the original couturier, but to bring the Maison fresh creative energy.
It was the start of a new era, when creative directors would be expected to integrate the spirit, values and codes of a brand, achieving a subtle balance between “forever” and “now”, while at the same time imposing their own vision to create desire as never before. The challenge is to juggle long-term strategy and instant impact, especially in the world of fashion, with its notoriously fast cycles. Hence the merry-go-round of designers and fashion houses. Because designers too need to nurture themselves, to be nurtured and to nurture their creative vision. And what better way to do that than to be given a new territory to explore, an almost-blank page on which to write?
A case in point is the recent appointment of Hedi Slimane as Artistic Director of Celine, with the mission to extend the scope of the label to menswear, couture and fragrance. In the 2000s, he literally redrew the Dior Homme silhouette, asserting a sharp, close-fitting, minimalist line which revolutionized the way men dressed. All of a sudden, the suit, inspired by the Sixties’ New Wave, became alluring – a world away from its previous image of a dull, everyday uniform. Today, this resolutely cosmopolitan Frenchman, who divides his time between Paris and Los Angeles, is back at an LVMH Maison… after a decade spent sharpening his near-supernatural sense of the contemporary zeitgeist. A renowned photographer and music lover, he has produced a series of books and exhibitions with a particular focus on the punk-rock scene. Multi-faceted and multi-talented, fascinated by contemporary art, Hedi Slimane will bring his overarching esthetic vision to Celine, always guided by the history of the brand. His homecoming symbolizes the will to bring, via the creative genius of an artistic director, new momentum to an iconic fashion house.
Two LVMH Maisons have recently thrown open their doors to two exceptional women, whose vision and couture sensibility are challenging the codes previously established by an arguably more masculine idea of seduction. Italian Maria Grazia Chiuri is a true fashion feminist, armed with uncompromising savoir-faire and widely admired for her talent for fusing romance with modernity.
Since 2016, her cultured approach, her fascination with women of character and her respect for artisanal knowhow have nurtured the collections she has designed for Dior – each one uniting a sense of grandeur, drawn from the extraordinary heritage of the Maison, with a very contemporary energy. Under her, Dior has taken a bold new direction, becoming the standard-bearer of a fashion infused with artistic references, as well as a determined, no-nonsense attitude.
This vision of women not as objects but as subjects is also, albeit in a very different register, one shared by Clare Waight Keller, the English designer who, since she took the helm of Maison Givenchy in 2017, has become synonymous with effortless, pared-down chic. Her grounded approach and her sense of on-the-go elegance, combined with the Maison’s aristocratic sensuality, have already caused a sensation – witness the wedding dress she designed for HRH The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle.
Having pioneered a new cool for men at Louis Vuitton, Kim Jones has taken up the creative reins at Dior Homme. At Louis Vuitton, his inspired mix of tailoring, sportswear and luxury fabrics set the tone for a style without borders, underpinned by a passion for travel which he shared with the legendary trunk-maker. His first collection for Dior took an entirely different direction, in line with his personal evolution and that of the identity of a Maison founded on a certain classicism.
Here, a glamorous mood was offset with touches of romance and humor, and flawless tailoring with subtle vintage influences – another of the designer’s passions – as Kim Jones set out a vision where respect for tradition flirted with a freer, contemporary spirit. Trained at London’s Central Saint Martins (an incubator of creative talent with which LVMH has a long-standing partnership), the designer is also actively involved behind the scenes. A team player who likes to know what is happening on the ground, he does not hesitate to engage directly with customers instore. In fact, he is so passionately committed to the cause that he decided not to keep his own label, but rather to explore the extraordinary possibilities of fashion’s major players.
Another evolution which has been eagerly observed since June 2018 is that of Louis Vuitton menswear, which is now in the hands of the American designer Virgil Abloh. An LVMH Prize finalist in 2015, an architect by training and an accomplished DJ, the founder of the It-label Off-White is one of the pioneers of the street-chic-sport trend. Virgil Abloh has an innate sense of creativity and an instinctive avant-garde approach which enable him to capture the mood on the streets and mix it up like nobody else… At a time when fashion is breaking the boundaries of culture and gender, who better than he to define a style that embraces global influences? If his appointment, and subsequently his first collection, created a buzz, his sense of movement and juxtaposition, his silhouettes infused with energy from here and elsewhere, his use of vibrant color, his wearable clothes and desirable bags, all feel truly enduring, like the traits of a forceful personality. Virgil Abloh or the art of mixing luxury and streetwear.
« Every case is different. There is no rule, only exceptions »
Every case is different. There is no rule, only exceptions. In this context, January 2019 will see the début at Berluti of Kris Van Assche who, after 11 years at Dior Homme (where he succeeded Hedi Slimane), will take the helm of a Maison renowned for its instantly identifiable tradition with a twist. The designer’s finely tuned tailoring, keen attention to detail and respect for artisanal techniques, which he constantly strives to update, make him the ideal candidate to extend with rigor and intelligence the scope of a historic label which came to fashion, be it made-to-measure or ready-to-wear, barely seven years ago.
To interpret their desires and ideas, the creative directors of these Maisons can count on other talents which, though they operate in the shadows, are equally indispensable: the committed craftsmen and women, whose experience and expertise bring a designer’s vision to life. Archive inspirations and contemporary influences are the heartbeat of LVMH. And of every customer who wants to share the dream.