The British designer Giles Deacon has been appointed creative director of Ungaro in a move aimed at reviving the reputation of the French fashion house.
His appointment comes less than a year after Ungaro bosses baffled the fashion world by hiring actress Lindsay Lohan as an artistic adviser, working alongside the designer Estrella Archs. Lohan, whose wild lifestyle is well documented in the tabloids, started last September but her debut collection, which consisted of garish colour combinations, cheap-looking cuts and heart-shaped nipple covers, was universally derided; not least by the label's founder Emanuel Ungaro, who branded the celebrity's efforts "a disaster". Lohan announced during Paris Fashion Week in March that she had left the label, and the departure of Archs followed in April.
Before the debacle with Lohan, Ungaro had already been through a run of designers after its founder's retirement in 2004 and the departure of his successor Giambattista Valli. Subsequent designers Vincent Darré and Peter Dundas lasted two seasons and Esteban Cortezar survived three.
Ungaro bosses and fashion followers saddened by the travails of a distinguished house, will hope Deacon can make the house feel cool and relevant again and restore its prestige of the 1970s and 1980s. Fortunately, Deacon, whose own label is called Giles, has every chance. Since he showed his first eponymous collection in 2004, the designer has impressed the industry with a distinctive style combining grand couture-inspired cuts and quirky, sometimes subversive prints and details.
A graduate of Central St Martins school of art, he has worked with Tom Ford at Gucci and has also designed for Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren. Ungaro is known for feminine frills, and exotic patterns and colours and Deacon said he likes "things that are very feminine, lots of colour, great prints, great quality, some unusual cuts", and hopes to bring them to Ungaro.
The appointment of a serious, experienced designer rather than a celebrity is also appropriate to a competitive market and the house's sophisticated heritage. Born in Aix en Provence in 1933, Emmanuel Ungaro worked as an assistant to Cristobal Balenciaga before establishing his own couture label in 1965. His use of colour and pattern, and sensual cuts, attracted glamorous customers such as Jackie Kennedy and Catherine Deneuve.