Jil Sander

So after a season of “team”, beleaguered Jil Sander has a new creative director: Rodolfo Paglialunga. Who? Cast your mind back, and you may remember him as the guy who briefly made the revived Vionnet kinda-sorta interesting in its first seasons back in the public eye, between 2009-2011. Celebs from Madonna (left, in his Vionnet) to Hillary Swank and Diane Kruger wore the dresses, and it was on the verge of hot-ness. Then something happened (who knows what?) and Mr Paglialunga was out. Vionnet, which was later sold to Goga Ashkanazi, has yet to really get back on the rails. But given his success with the brand, does this (short) track record bode well for Sander? 

It never rains but it pours: just a week after the Burberry shake-up comes news that Jil Sander (left) is leaving her namesake label for the third – count’ em – time, for “personal reasons.” (The first two times she left because of strategic differences with the then-owner, Prada Group.) No replacement has been named, and the upcoming fall/winter collection will be designed by an in-house team. So what are we to make of this? 

After a year of rumour and speculation, Dior has finally confirmed Raf Simons, the fashion darling recently canonized after his abrupt firing as artistic director of Jil Sander, has been handed the keys to the house – just over a year after former Dior creative director John Galliano was handed his walking papers after an alleged anti-Semitic incident. The appointment will put an end not just to the constant gossip about who might be getting the job, but to suggestions that perhaps the whole concept of a creative director was outmoded.
 

It never rains but it pours, and so on. In those terms, this month the fashion world is experiencing a deluge. After the departures of Stefano Pilati and Raf Simons from YSL and Jil Sander respectively, and the expected departure of Derek Lam from Tods at September and the end of his contract, come two more announcements: Lucy Yeomans is leaving as editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar UK and Amanda Brooks has left as fashion director of Barneys New York. This is, as they say, a moment of change.
 

I’m telling you: ides of March. Rumours have spread like wildfire that Derek Lam, the American designer who has been creative director of Tod’s for the last six years, has parted ways with the brand. The Tod’s folks are have been hiding from all emails and phone calls since last night, but they aren’t denying it. If it’s true, it has interesting implications for the future of luxury.  

We Are All Guilty for this Mess,” according to Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune. In a heartfelt piece in her newspaper, my fellow Fashion Week traveller and friend took the fashion industry (herself included) to task for the very public soap opera that is the current round of designer switcheroos, in which bystanders gossip and place bets and tweet about real jobs and real people like they are characters in a reality television game.

It’s tough and honest and has people buzzing at the shows, and I recommend you read it, but I’m also not sure I entirely agree with it. I think she’s right about the situation, but doesn’t fully get to the cause. 

Stefano Pilati

Stefano Pilati. Image by Getty.

And so yet another designer departure is official: Stefano Pilati is leaving Yves Saint Laurent. Finally, the years of rumours about his impending demise (at the house, natch, not really) can stop! They are no longer exaggerated!

The timing of this announcement was as weird as that of Raf Simons’ recent departure from Jil Sander – this one comes a full week before Pilati’s last YSL show. My guess is the reasons were similar: news had leaked, gossip was rampant. Word on the street (and in my ears) was Hedi Slimane, who long ago ran YSL men’s wear to much acclaim, was on the way back. WWD published it. When I emailed Paul Deneuve, YSL’s chief executive, he made non-committal noises about “rumours,” and didn’t corroborate – or actually deny – any of it. 

Jil Sander in Japan, 2010 (Getty)

So, the rumours were true: Jil Sander the woman is returning, for a third time, to Jil Sander the brand. I find this so mind-boggling — does no one learn from history? — I am going to let them explain the situation, kind of, themselves. Here’s the official announcement, with some comments from the sidelines:

“JIL SANDER SpA herewith announces the appointment of Ms. Jil Sander as Creative Director of the JIL SANDER Group, effective on the 28th of February 2012.”

That is, three days after the next collection, designed by current creative director Raf Simons; that’s going to be a hard sell to retailers, but guess they decided it was worth swallowing the loss. 

For everyone who was super-hyper-over-excited about the recent rumours, sparked this weekend by a report in the IHT, that Jil Sander’s Raf Simons was going to take over for Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent – well, Paul Deneuve, the chief executive of YSL, just told me it wasn’t true. 

In one way, the answer to the above question is a definite yes. Yesterday Patrick Robinson, the brand’s creative director and a man whose arrival after stints at high-end brands like Paco Rabanne and Perry Ellis seemed to signal a new, fashion-forward direction for the mass market name, was ousted from the company.

“After spending the last three months in New York with the Creative team, I’ve made the decision to make a change within our Gap Adult design team,” said Pam Wallack, head of the Gap Global Creative Center in New York.

Getty Images

That’s pretty anodyne.

And thus ended Mr Robinson’s brief era – he joined in 2008 – where Gap engaged in mini runway shows, staged presentations for glossy magazine editors and last year actually sponsored the Met’s Costume Institute ball, dressing Diane Kruger, among other celebrities. Is this the end of that approach?

Though there was some buzz post-Met, it never coalesced into a specific image for the brand. Mr Robinson himself is relatively mediagenic, but whilst GAP at first seemed interested in the idea of a frontman to represent them, a classic strategy of high-end brands that use their designers to humanise their name and connect it to consumers, they never seemed fully committed to the approach.