Alexander Fury: The irony of redesigning fashion brands

Wear, What, Why, When?

Nicolas Ghesquière has been appointed the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s womenswear – a move that surprised no one. He’ll show his first collection in March.

But his work will begin before then. The redesign of a fashion house has very little to do with the fashion. It’s about the image you project – the advertising, the boutique fit-out, the public image. The clothes matter, of course: no matter how fancy a shop is, if the collection is a dud it’s probably not going to sell. But all the ephemera going on around the frockery is a designer’s chance to sell us what fashion brands are really about: a dream.

That’s always been the case. When John Galliano and Alexander McQueen went to Dior and Givenchy in 1996, the first thing they did was revamp the advertising, rework the image – after designing the clothes, of course.

The most extreme example in recent years is Hedi Slimane’s retooling of Saint Laurent. Slimane managed to rattle cages before anyone even saw a garment. First he redesigned the logo, cleaving the “Yves” from the label. His reasoning? Taking it back to Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche roots, the revolutionary ready-to-wear boutique the couturier opened in 1966 where the name “Yves” didn’t appear.

While I’m not always sold on the clothes, Slimane’s vision pervades every facet of branding. Ghesquière did the same at Balenciaga, catapulting a moribund house back to fashion relevance. It will be interesting to see what he’ll do with Louis Vuitton. But it’s bound to make for full-throttle fashion. Regardless of the image, that’s what gets me excited.

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