Looking to keep the general public up to date on the state of leadership at major fashion houses has required a veritable Venn diagram — the fashion realm has seen more new hook-ups, make-ups and break-ups than an issue of Us Weekly. While the dust has hardly settled (Francisco Costa announced his resignation from Calvin Klein just days ago), we're left with questions outside of who will replace whom? High up on that list? Shopping. With the final collections of designers like Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent, Raf Simons at Dior and Alexander Wang at Balenciaga are available at retail, should customers invest in them?
While creative directors taking the helm of and later leaving houses is hardly new, the whiplash speed at which this current set came and went — and the towering level of the brands they were under the employ of — is certainly novel. Alber Elbaz's 14-year tenure at Lanvin is the exception in the current game of designer musical chairs.
Are consumers invested in and knowledgeable about the men behind the big name, global brands, or simply in it for the logo on the tag? Natalie Kingham, buying director at Matchesfashion.com is betting on informed consumers, "When there's a big turn around at a house, I think there is so much interest around that in the media and at retail that the consumer does realise what's happened. Often, the aesthetic can change, logos change, everything changes — so the consumer is very aware of what's going on."
Which, in turn, means that a customer's loyalty (and spending money) is just as much behind a creative director as it is in the House, capital H, he designs for.
Dior by Raf Simons Spring 2016
Even before Slimane announced his departure, it was clear that the designer had a large fiscal impact on the brand — WWD notes under his direction sales increased 37.4 percent in just one quarter. It would stand to reason that his resale potential would also be high — for those willing to part with pieces, of course.
"Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent and Alessandro Michele at Gucci are two of the most popular creative pairings of the last couple of years," Fanny Moizant, co-founder of high end resale site Vestiaire Collective explains. "The billing on the site of Saint Laurent has increased by 245 percent since Hedi Slimane took over the reigns in 2011, and billing of Gucci has increased by 114 percent."
While the question of should customers buy into these orphaned brands exists, in truth, it's already being answered. "We've definitely experienced an uplift in interest since the announcement of the creative directors departures," according to Moizant. "Lanvin billing has increased by 29 percent since October while sales of Dior has increased by 25 percent over the last couple of months."
We're all well-aware that vintage YSL and Chanel maintain and even increase in value. With the advantage of a little time and distance, it's clear that far more recent creative directors have also increased the future value of pieces they designed while at a house. "We just did a sale around Nicolas Ghesquière's tenure at Balenciaga," Sabrina Marshall, co-founder of Paris-based luxury fashion resale site Resee.com explains. "Of course that's a different story because he was there for a much longer period [than the other designers being discussed]. But the minute he left, the value definitely went up."
Dress, Dhs25,475, Saint Laurent at Matchesfashion.com
Fanny Moizant saw a similar effect at Vestiaire Collective, which recently started a "One that Got Away" program that allows customers to request to be notified when particular archive items come up for sale. "We mostly saw the community searching for pieces from limited edition collections or one-off collaborations — we did experience quite a few searches for pieces from Nicolas Ghesquière's time at Balenciaga."
So it's not exactly rocket science — if a designer's impact was felt dramatically while at a house, as Ghesquière's unquestionably was at Balenciaga, and Slimane's most certainly is at Saint Laurent, the chances of buying a new piece and having it retain its value is good. If it's newsy now, it will be newsy later, "Take Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga, having looked at his first collection, you can already see the massive changes that he's made to the aesthetic of the brand — and I think those pieces will become really sought after in the future," Kingham says.
In contrast, Marshall believes designers need time to prove their worth, "Some brands that are playing switch-a-roo, one season to the next — I think clients need to see an evolution of the brand and I don't think it happens in one or two seasons…" Perhaps Wang's tenure, while critically celebrated, didn't tell a long enough story to create that buzz in the resale space.
So what about the here and now? "If a lady has really enjoyed Hedi Slimane's clothes, and the cut really fits her, then she'd need to buy up as much as she can," Matches Fashion's Kingham says, "these pieces can be very iconic in the future."
Balenciaga by Alexander Wang Spring 2016
In the resale realm of Resee, "We're definitely looking for those key pieces that have defined moments in fashion. I would go for one of those iconic, iconic pieces — and then as for the rest, go for what you love — there's definitely value if you're into it."
Moizant agrees, go noteworthy or go home. "Really focus on picking up on the key pieces that embody the aesthetic ethos of the partnership [between the house and the designer] as these are the pieces that will retain their value in the future."
As in all matters of art and commerce, it comes down to the whims of the individual, "I think fashion lovers have different motivations for purchasing pieces, many people buy purely because they love a piece and want to wear it, some people are collectors and buy key pieces to add to an archive in the same way people build art collections, " Moizant says. "Then there are people who buy pieces purely as an investment. Someone I know recently purchased a Birkin bag with no intention of ever using it, she's going to store it away until it's the right time to resell…"
If you do pick up a Spring 2016 Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent, Wang for Balenciaga or Raf Simmons for Dior, wear it with a strut in your step, but consider its potentially escalating value before dancing on any tables in it. "Maintaining your items in good condition is definitely essential to prolonging the life of a piece and also ensuring a good resale value," Moizant says. "Keeping the original packaging and proof of purchase are also wise to ensure a strong investment."
And when in doubt, keep an eye out for some Ghesquière for Balenciaga pieces.
Balenciaga, Spring 2007
Via Harper's Bazaar US