Fashion's Fast Track: Season of Change

Designer fashion is going through some major shifts, which could define how observers look back on the fashion decade.

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It's been a turbulent time for top recruitment firms, as some of the industry's most senior-level executives recently caught that antsy feeling that results in departures, moves and more than a few prominent vacancies that still need to be filled. For instance, Prada USA has yet to name a replacement for Constance Darrow, the ceo who left the company in December, and Louis Vuitton North America still hasn't homed in on a successor to president Jean-Marc Gallot, who will move to Paris and become Vuitton's European president at the end of the summer. Jean Paul Gaultier has yet to pick a replacement for president Eric Labaume.

"It's more serendipitous than any kind of prognosticator," said Hal Reiter, ceo of Herbert Mines & Associates, of the recent flurry of executive changes. "Each of the transitions have had different and distinct reasons. The biggest issue is finding the best fit."

Reiter added that there isn't a case of a brain drain as much as the fact that there haven't been many people to have emerged from the "lower ranks" recently, thus resulting in the same pool of executives being "recycled."

Meanwhile, recent hires have been busy creating a strategy for their brands, which should come into effect in the next few months. The ones to watch include Bridget Ryan Berman, who became Giorgio Armani's ceo in April; Pat Malone, Christian Dior's U.S. president and ceo; Bertrand Stalla-Bourdillon, Marc Jacobs' new ceo, and Roberto Pesaro, president and ceo at Narciso Rodriguez LLC.

This September, Helmut Lang will be resurrected with the launch of the capsule spring collection under the creative auspices of Michael and Nicole Colovos, the founders and former designers of Habitual. The anticipation is high, since Prada had been unable to turn the Lang business into the fashion powerhouse it had intended for it to be. The label, which had always been much revered by the fashion community, had been inactive for nearly a year when Link Theory Holdings Co. Ltd. acquired it from Prada in March. Andrew Rosen, Theory's president, has been given the mandate to rebuild Helmut Lang into a more contemporary collection with a wider variety of price points. While spring will be a capsule collection, the company plans to turn Helmut Lang into a global business with distribution to upscale department and specialty stores. And while the Colovoses are expected to put their own spin on the collection, they have closely studied the Helmut Lang archives, and will hopefully remain true to the modernist ethos that defined the namesake designer.

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