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Recruiting New Designers: Talent Scouts Now Favor Milan's Seasoned Hands

The Nineties trend of hiring unproven designers to rejuvenate storied brands has given way to a new appreciation of more seasoned talents.

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According to Lanciaux, the industry has learned the value of hiring designers who have not only a rich sense of fashion history and broad culture, but have proven their resilience in a tough industry. She said Jacobs is a perfect example, and other designers who fit the profile range from American Rick Owens to Italian Ennio Capasa, of Costume National.

“There’s much more of a focus on creativity and the right level of creativity than five years ago,” Morgan Stanley luxury analyst Claire Kent remarked at a press conference in Milan earlier this week. “Without the right creative people, even a strong brand can go down very quickly.”

Jean-Jacques Picart, an industry consultant in Paris, agreed that the brand owners are less inclined to experiment with unproven designers in a tough market. In his view, the recent appointments of Christian Lacroix at Emilio Pucci and Jean Paul Gaultier at Hermès are telling, given that the two star couturiers are in their early 50s. Nina Ricci’s appointment of Lars Nilsson, 37, who has more than 12 years’ experience under his belt, is also in tune with the new trend.

“We need much more mature designers than young designers,” he said. “It’s very secure, because it’s not easy to make it in the industry today. Designers need to have a culture of fashion and not be so egocentric.”

Picart also suggested Italy will figure prominently in the coming years, given the country’s combination of industrial know-how and creativity. In fact, he predicted more designers from France, which lacks manufacturing and distribution know-how, would gravitate to Italy in the future.

“Italians could be a good opportunity for the next five years,” he said.

Floriane de Saint Pierre, an executive recruitment specialist and industry consultant based in Paris, on Saturday fetes her new Milan office, which itself announces Italy’s importance on the global stage. “We want to be really close to one of the strongest markets in terms of candidates,” she said. “Most important talents, at some point in their career, work for an Italian company.”

De Saint Pierre stopped short of giving Italy the edge in terms of design talent, though. “I would say the talent pool is in Europe generally,” she said.
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