(clockwise, top left: Olivier Rousteing, Tracy Reese, Carly Cushnie, Stella Jean, B Michael)
by Eric Darnell Pritchard
Yesterday, I shared a commentary in which I argued that Black designers are not appearing on lists of designers who would be potential replacements as creative directors at historic ready-to-wear and haute couture houses, and specifically Dior and Lanvin after the sudden exits of Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz, respectively. In a social media economy in which name recognition and visibility matters, and given the continued shifts among creative directors at the top houses, it is imperative to provide some direction for a future leader of Dior, Lanvin and the historic fashion houses to come who may be looking for leadership, and are invested in considering many of the very talented Black designers for such a position. Certainly this list risks becoming yet another among the long and ever growing wish lists of potential creative directors to be considered, but as this list centers the qualifications, contributions, aesthetics, and promise of Black designers exclusively and deliberately so, and as argued in a previous commentary Black designers rare (if ever) appear on such lists, this is a much needed addition to the usual list of those being considered. Also, I was to stress that these are my personal five favorites for the job, and stress that there are many, many other Black designers who have everything it takes to get the job done:
A rising star in fashion, the Milan based Jean is a favorite of fashion critics including Franca Sozzani editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, and fashion critic Suzy Menkes. Jean’s feminine, pretty aesthetic is very much so in line with that of Dior and Lanvin’s own design codes. She also has a European fashion sensibility in her clothes that would be appreciated by haute couture die hards.
With nearly two decades of experience of making glamorous gowns to order, B Michael would bring the skill set a historic house of haute couture would be looking for to fulfill this responsibility of the position. He also has an already impressive roster of clientele who come to him for custom made garments including Halle Berry and the Williams Sisters, and this would be a built in client roster Dior and Lanvin would be used to and continue to court.
Cushnie, one half of design duo Cushnie Et Ochs, is known for women’s wear designs with the hallmarks of strength, passion, sexuality as central themes of her work. Trained at Parsons School of Design, and a former assistant in the design studios of American designers Proenza Schouler, Donna Karan, and Oscar de la Renta, the London born Cushnie’s designs for Cushnie Et Ochs have been wor on many red carpets by celebrity clientele, including Rihanna the current face of Christian Dior.
A favorite of FLOTUS Michelle Obama (above), Reese has almost twenty years of experience heading her own fashion label. Reese’s designs are known for their traditionally feminine flourishes, and bold use of color and print, both of which would be a good match for the visual vocabulary of Christian Dior or Lanvin.
The reigning fashion king of social media, Rousteing has managed to make Balmain a “must see” show during Paris Fashion Week, not only for his sexy, modern, and edgy designs, but also for a runway show front row of attendees who are also friends such as Kanye West, Kim Kardashian – West, and Rihanna, while supermodels Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls and Kendall Jenner all stomp the Balmain runway each season. Just this week, Rousteing launched “Balmain x H&M” a one off collaborative collection bringing the luxury retailers aesthetic to the department store H&M and its more affordable price point. His current successes would give Dior or Lanvin attention from a generation of luxury brand consumers who would grow with the label.
Who would be on your list of potential replacements as creative director at Dior or Lanvin?