Changing the creative director of a fashion house is a big risk. Sometimes the change can inject new energy into a brand and broadly expand its customer base, as Alessandro Michele’s appointment at Gucci did (where sales are up 5.4 percent year-over-year to $2.1 billion in the first half of 2016). At other times it can damage a house’s reputation and alienate existing clients, sending sales into a tailspin.
On Sept. 27, the opening night of Paris Fashion Week, the house of Saint Laurent introduced the world to its new creative director, 37-year-old Belgian-Italian Anthony Vaccarello. As the former head designer at Versace diffusion line Versus, as well as the founder of his eponymous label, Vaccarello and his signature slit skirts were already familiar to most in the audience. They knew, then, that they were about to see a different Saint Laurent than that of his predecessor, Hedi Slimane. During his four-year directorship, Slimane did much to align the brand with the rock-music community and aesthetic, casting Kim Gordon and Marilyn Manson in his campaigns and inviting obscure local bands to walk his runways. “Hedi just knows what rock’n’roll looks and feels like,” says friend Courtney Love. “He has an aesthetic, without it being lame.” Slimane also sent sales for the house skyrocketing north of $1 billion in 2015, following year-over-year growth of more than 20 percent from 2012 to 2014, according to Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Mario Ortelli.