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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But there are many champions for Italy. Retailer Majed Al-Sabah, owner of Villa Moda in Kuwait, was among the first to write an order for Marras’ signature collection six years ago and he’s remained a staunch champion of Italian design.

Among designers he’s keeping a close eye on are Maurizio Pecoraro, Alexsandro Palombo and Rohka, all on the Milan schedule this week. “In Italy, I think Maurizio Pecoraro is going to be the next Valentino or the future Oscar de la Renta,” he said. “He’s the only one from all the young designers who are doing clothes for chic women and ultra luxury.”

Al-Sabah noted that his customers are extremely receptive to new names in ready-to-wear, while preferring big names like Prada, Gucci, Fendi or Christian Dior for accessories. Beyond Italy, Al-Sabah cited Paris-based Andrew Gn, London’s Tata Naka, Gharani Strok and Boyd as ones to watch.

“I’m also a big fan of Australian designers who are doing amazing designs,” he said. “There’s Easton Pearson, who is to me the new Dries Van Noten.”

Although European talent scouts said America does not hold the same promise for talent it once did, others see things differently.

Robert Burke, senior vice president and fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, said he was “very encouraged” by New York fashion week, which wound up last month, listing Zac Posen, Derek Lam and Proenza Schouler among the standouts. He added that Paris “has always fostered creativity,” too.

Lanciaux also said she’s keeping a close an eye on Japan, which she described as an “incredible laboratory of design” from which is likely to emerge a few “significant talents in the next five years or so.”

But if the industry has an Achilles heel in the talent department on a global scale, it’s for designers of accessories, particularly leather goods, the cash cow of the luxury industry.

“The pool is dry,” de Saint Pierre remarked. “There is a real fight to get the best human resources.”
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