Friday, 23 March 2012

Hansel & Gretel

        When a head designer leaves a luxury brand, questions inevitably ensue:

Who will succeed them? Where will they go? Will the brand suffer?

       Yet, as we find ourselves reluctantly waving off Stefano Pilati and Raf Simons from YSL and Jil Sander respectively, at least one of these questions has been answered; their successors have been announced. Pilati will be replaced by former Dior Homme designer Hedi Silmane, who held a post at the brand in 1997 as its art director, and Simons position will be taken up by Jil Sander herself, who returns to her brand, after an eight year break from the company. Despite the loss of great leaders, it looks as though the brands will continue to prosper under safe hands.

      However, this does not detract from the reality that two fashion eras have ended. Despite mixed views from critics throughout his time at YSL, Pilati shaped the label over the past decade. His original tulip dresses defined the 00s YSL look and within the past year he saw the brand's sales increase over 31%. Moreover, his final 'standing ovation' collection, with it's intricate leather tunics and body-grazing dresses demonstrated why he was YSL's head designer for so long. Pilati encapsulated the brand's effortless glamour and for that both he and his work will be sorely missed from the YSL catwalk.
       In contrast to Pilati, Simons collections for Jil Sander have never failed to please critics, in fact they have always seemed to surpass their expectations. From billowing fluorescent maxis last SS, to paisley pyjamas this AW, Simons never failed to make a statement for the label and, as we gaze upon his final Jil Sander collection of rose-tinged classics, it's already hard to imagine a Jil Sander without him. He transformed the brand and, as he moves on, there's no doubt that he, like Pilati, will be missed, as we eagerly await what they do next.

         When Alexander McQueen died in 2010, however, we were unable to look forward to what he would do next, merely question if his label would continue. And, considering his talent, it seemed that no-one could do continue it, with the result that his brand, along with him, would die. And yet, in the last two years, Sarah Burton has not only continued the McQueen label but helmed it to great success. Her first collection for the brand saw her prove that having been McQueen's assistant for twelve years, she understood his aesthetic completely and her more feminine approach to the label has proved that, alongside her understanding of the brand, she, like McQueen before her, has visions for it.
        However, whilst Burton undoubtedly captured the McQueen look straight away - one thing which she has appeared to avoid up until now is McQueen's sense of spectacle. Perhaps out of respect for McQueen she didn't imitate his extravaganzas, with the result that, whilst her designs have been McQueen, her shows have not and without the concepts of McQueen's shows, the brand has felt somewhat incomplete. Thus, when Burton debuted her first catwalk show for McQueen's sister label McQ last month, it became clear that her fears vanished and McQueen was with us again. Burton finally embraced McQueen in his entirety because, alongside her incredible designs, lay a concept, a Hansel and Gretel concept, which you can admire for yourself below:

       Burton finally stopped worrying about potentially appearing as a second-rate version of McQueen. She created her own spectacle, as she used Kristen McMenamy to reveal that behind McQueen's austere edge, is a sense of humour. In doing so, Burton has established her own era at McQueen. She has embedded herself in the brand and made it her own, with the result that a McQueen without her, like a YSL without a Pilati and a Jil Sander without a Simons, would be somewhat hard to imagine should she ever leave the brand...fingers crossed she doesn't.

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