Fashion Statement: Change is easier to make when there are past masters to follow

It's always difficult, stepping into someone else's shoes – especially when you have high arches. And it's even more difficult when those shoes have been worn for so long and with such panache by their previous owner.

That said, there has been quite a bit of shoe-swapping on the fashion circuit this year: a series of industry switches and shifts that finally bore fruit this season, as we witnessed Jil Sander's return to her own label in Milan after an eight-year absence, as well as Raf Simons's and Hedi Slimane's ready-to-wear women's collections – for Dior and Yves Saint Laurent respectively – in Paris earlier this month.

That's the thing with fashion: while certain entities are untouchable, ineffable – sacred even – there's always clamour for something new or for a bit of a shake-up. Those who follow what happens on the catwalks love nothing more than some empty speculation about what might happen next – which perhaps goes some way towards explaining why, when the rest of us are wrapping up in warm jumpers, the fashion set are already planning their summer wardrobes.

But the very best fashion happens when the shoes fit properly, when the new pays lip service to the old and builds on what has gone before. Take Nicolas Ghesquière, whose 15 years at Balenciaga have seen the label become one of the loftiest around – his innovative ways with fabric and silhouette recall perfectly the ingenuity of the house's founding father Cristobal, whose original sartorial architecture is reworked and re-imagined by his successor in breathtakingly modern style season after season. Likewise, Riccardo Tisci's work at Givenchy right now, for all its attitude and aesthetic agitprop, lacks none of the elegance of M. Hubert's Sixties classics.

This season, Simons and Slimane looked to the archives for inspiration too: nostalgic bell-skirted gowns were overlaid with holographic organza at Dior, while Saint Laurent's trademark tuxes and Seventies safari suits were nipped in and updated by Slimane.

So stepping into those shoes, and writing this column, isn't so much a giant leap as a soft shuffle; I'm just wearing them in a bit and wriggling my toes around, finding my feet.

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