Fashion Old Guards: Can They be Replaced?

At its core, the business of fashion is an endless quest for something new. Problem is, some of the biggest names are getting rather old.

Giorgio Armani and Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld are in their 80s, Roberto Cavalli is 74, and Bernard Arnault, chairman of the company that owns Louis Vuitton, turned 66 in March. Of these, only Cavalli seems ready to swap his sketch book for slippers, as he’s trying to sell his business. The rest present succession quandaries that could reverberate long after fashion’s senior statesmen shuffle off the catwalk for good.

Karl Lagerfeld. Image courtesy of watzby.com
Karl Lagerfeld. Image courtesy of watzby.com

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It is not just a problem with designers but it is also a problem for most aspects of the fashion industry including publications such as the US Vogue. Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington or Suzy Menkes are very hard to be replaced. Good luck to whoever is going to fill in their shoes next. 

Having said that, as we observe the wave of trends, it is going downward. Today, no one is as iconic as Coco Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent whose houses become culturally-significant global brands. Karl Lagerfeld might be an icon but he is not an iconic brand, he’s continuing Chanel’s legacy. Designers like Tom Ford or Marc Jacobs, famous as they are, are hard to imagine that their brands will hold culturally significant status in several decades to come. 

TomFord

The problem, squarely, lies on fashion becoming a collective entity, instead of an individual, that focuses much more on revenue, it dampens the creative output on producing something significantly iconic or with a signature. We’ve got Chanel who is easily identifiable for their tweed jackets or Burberry for their checkered trench coats. 

There are several candidates that hold a promise like Alexander McQueen (unfortunate), Hussein Chalayan, or Haider Ackermann, who have the creative capabilities to eventually create iconic signatures, but these designers usually prefer to remain private and very shy to adopt charming, alluring, larger-than-life public images hurting the brand’s personae. 

Haider Ackermann
Haider Ackerman for W Magazine

We are quite confident that these fashion personalities have carefully curated their successors but we feel like we’re standing at the last era of the fashion Giants.