forever would one day be trusted to a youngster who initially became famous for his intarsia knits and t-shirts?
Well, I do... And have been for a while now. I've wondered. with a heavy heart, if a fashion house should really continue its life after the death of the founder, the person who build the brand following his vision, dreams, aesthetics and codes.
If fashion is to be ever compared to art, then why is it a norm to accept that there's only one Mona Lisa, Sistine Chapel, Requiem, Moonlight sonata, Romeo & Juliet, Anna Karenina or Lolita while being absolutely relaxed about the fact of creating as many Diors, Balenciagas, Saint Laurents, Schiaparellis or Vionnets as we please?
Take McQueen, for example. The entire uniqueness of the fashion fantasy he created came from the fact that he was Alexander McQueen and everything he did, from the first cut and stitch to the show spectacle was saturated with his DNA, individualism, charisma, love, faith, passion, the whole being of Alexander McQueen. He never wanted his house to remain open after his death nor did he ever believed in dying early (in one of his interviews McQueen talks about the future when he's an old man and has to retire from fashion due to age). It's like having Beethoven wishing for somebody to compose music under his name post mortem. The way the McQueen story unfolded simply proved that nobody could have ever replaced Lee because being a the right hand, left hand, legs, fingers, ears, body, friend or whoever or whatever else, does not make one McQueen, gives a person the fully functioning brain of the original creator or enables him or her to see the world and fashion through McQueen eyes.
While on the subject of friends I cannot overlook the Galliano-Gaytten affair when a so-called friend was not only quick to present himself as such (and funnily enough, people who actually worked with Galliano could not always remember Bill being there), but to take his place at both Dior and Galliano's namesake brand. I guess in his mind Gaytten thought that Galliano's departure was permanent, which, as we know, lead to the ridiculous situation of John creating for Margiela while Bill, sheepishly, showing his John Galliano collection the very next day. The problem is that, just like McQueen, Galliano is one of the ultimate visionaries who cannot be replicated - a tiny, but significant, detail that Gaytten didn't think through properly back in 2011.
And the story continues... Dior is suffering... And so is Balenciaga. Perhaps, not in monetary ways, but being true to the founder's vision and level of creativity.
If this heartbreaking cacophony isn't enough, we have the talks of bringing back Charles Frederick Worth (not for the sake of fashion history, but, as I feel, on a notion of a successful exhibition and as a present from husband to wife who fancied being a fashion designer), the tortures of rebuilding Vionnet, the odds at Schiaparelli when Guyon admitted that he knew very little about her prior to taking up a new role, the total ignorance of Nina Ricci's essence by Henry, or the sudden departure of Donna Karan (here's a note to the young and budding designers - do not sell your name to devil no matter how much he pays, because after all, it has nothing to do with you or your creative genius).
Lets be honest, very honest... The house that is kept afloat in a manner of Lenin's mausoleum, is never really maintained by the financiers for their love of fashion, but the profits the iconic (or idolised?) status of the brand would generate. The designer they choose, as talented as he may be, will never, never, possess the mind of the person who build the creative foundation, not only because it's humanly impossible, but also because any talented person is talented in his own rights. As a result all the newly installed designer will be able to do is to either replicate the original, totally crush it under his own ego or creatively and physically struggle under pressure from his rightful bosses and media.
And forced creativity does not alway sell well. That is why most brands run on perfumes... and make-up... and other frilly additions - they make be a backup plan, but they certainly get the tills ringing. The accessories are another profitable venture and this is where the houses that began as leather goods, luggage and handbags brands such as Hermes, Bottega Veneta, Vuitton and Celine, are in a better position designer-wise compared to those founded to make clothes and couture. Some of them do marvellously well, others have their good and bad times, but essentially, these are the places where the change of designer doesn't really affect the legacy, but rather adds new pages to the history books.
Of course, there are rare exceptions, which, in my opinion, make a reliable transition from era to era. I am talking of those situations when the new designer is either a part of a family (think Missoni and Trussardi) or given a blessing by the founder (Valentino and Piccioli and Chuiri, Oscar de la Renta and Copping, Sonia Rykiel and Julie de Libran, just to name a few)
As for many others... It would be unfair to say that I would not be sad if some of the houses became extinct, but I also feel that keeping the doors closed would have nothing to do with forgetting, but instead respecting the work, legacy and wishes of a person for whom the place meant more than just a shop or studio, but his life, air and the way of expressing his perception of beauty and the world. I don't want somebody to come and pretend to be Balenciaga, Prada, Alaia, Gaultier, Galliano or McQueen just because they know how to breathe, sketch or have a boosting Instagram account. And I don't want the house to exist on life support as the only way to carry on either.
Besides a part of me would also be incredibly excited about discovering new names and faithfully following the ones I've adored for years. Keeping the memories. Creating the future. Constantly learning and keeping my eyes and mind opened. It's only natural. Like a heart beat. The simple idea that is getting lost among the congested industry fashion has become lately.
Photo source: Natalia Vodianova in Handmade's tale / Vogue US October 2008 (photography: Patrick Demarchelier, styling: Grace Coddington)