It’s an appointment that no one saw coming: that of singer and producer Pharrell Williams at the head of Vuitton men, in February. Until now, the artistic directors of luxury houses have always come from the fashion world, and the few exceptions, such as actress Lindsay Lohan’s whirlwind stint at Ungaro in 2009, had rather demonstrated the danger of going s to venture out of the fashion breeding ground.
After Vuitton’s announcement, the joke ran on Instagram that Britney Spears would arrive at Hermès, a sign that the appointment of a pop star at the head of a fashion house arouses a form of circumspection. But is it such a crazy idea to look elsewhere for your artistic director (AD)? And, in 2023, what skills does such a position require?
Among all the experts interviewed, the same word comes up: “vision”. “There is no composite image of the perfect artistic director, because each house is different. The only common denominator is that he must carry a clear vision for the brand, consistent with that of the CEO or owner”, says Valentina Maggi, director of designer recruitment at Floriane de Saint Pierre & Associés. The artistic director is the one who has “a global vision of the brand, capable of training all teams”, explains Pierre Rougier, founder of the PR Consulting agency. And the teams in question are as numerous as the areas of intervention of the DA.
Obviously, an artistic director must create clothes. Depending on the brands, two, four, sometimes ten collections will have to be produced per year, for men, women, children and even doggies (Gucci, Prada or Celine have a line reserved for dogs). Some should be commercial and easy to sell, others demonstrate the creative power of the brand. The DA may be required to design haute couture dresses at 30,000 euros, but also card holders for the “aspirational” customer who would like to buy but whose means are limited.
“A brand is collections but also communication”, emphasizes Pierre Rougier. Because, beyond the fashion part, the artistic director must think about the general aesthetics of the brand through its logo, its shops, its packaging, its advertising campaigns. Designing fashion shows and events that stand out. Choose relevant muses and influencers. Imagine a strategy on social networks. Embody the brand and know how to talk about it. Have a strong community on Instagram and be comfortable dealing with journalists.
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