While fashion is a multi-billion-dollar industry, the notion that celebrities and models are the true stars of this dazzling world is a myth. The real glamazons, in fact, are the wizards responsible for the magic we see on the runways aka the creative directors. These enchanters of style are the architects of our sartorial dreams, conjuring the spellbinding charm that fashion houses command.
Imagine their appointments as seismic events that send ripples of excitement through the very fabric of the fashion universe. These are the disruptors, the trendsetters, the guardians of a brand’s aesthetic and legacy and, above all, the attention-commanders, adored by the press as well as the rich and the famous.
These visionaries not only advise designers on overarching concepts but also serve as the guiding stars of a brand’s aesthetic journey. They craft every detail of a label’s image, ensuring that each collection resonates with the spirit of the times and propels the industry forward.
Their appointments become even more important when you take into consideration the fact that we are currently living in the ever-evolving era of fashion, a time when legacy brands are rethinking their design aesthetics and introducing new creative directors to the mix. This brings us to…
Unveiling the best creative directors of top fashion houses in 2023
From Pharrell Williams at Louis Vuitton to Sabato De Sarno at Gucci, these names are not just synonymous with style and innovation but also bring an added edge (and a whole lot of magic) to the runway. They are young, famous and immensely talented. So, get ready to be captivated by the enchanting world they create – one where fashion truly knows no limits.
1. Seán McGirr for Alexander McQueen: The Irish Dynamo
Irish-born designer Seán McGirr, having just been appointed as the new creative director at Alexander McQueen, is the latest buzzword in the fashion industry. His appointment for the coveted role followed the departure of the esteemed Sarah Burton, who gracefully exited the label after an astounding 26-year reign.
Amidst rampant speculation surrounding Kering’s choice for this pivotal role, the baton was firmly passed to the exceptionally talented Seán McGirr. While his name may not instantly ring a bell in the fashion cosmos, his portfolio speaks volumes about his experience and credentials that are fitting for this prestigious position.
The early years of Seán’s journey into the world of fashion were marked by a stint as a stylist in the bustling fashion hubs of Tokyo and Paris. Before assuming the mantle at Alexander McQueen, McGirr masterfully oversaw the ready-to-wear operations at JW Anderson.
In addition to his remarkable tenure at JW Anderson, McGirr’s design prowess has left an indelible mark on other fashion powerhouses, including Dries Van Noten, Burberry and Uniqlo. As the new captain of Alexander McQueen, Seán McGirr promises to steer the brand into an exciting and innovative direction.
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2. Sabato De Sarno for Gucci: The Trendsetter Extraordinaire
The sudden departure of Alessandro Michele, the visionary behind Gucci’s remarkable revival, sent shockwaves through the fashion universe two months ago. Reports suggested that Michele’s exit was spurred by a reluctance to embrace the aggressive high-growth strategy demanded by the boardroom. In his place, Gucci welcomed a fresh perspective in the form of Sabato De Sarno.
De Sarno’s arrival at Gucci brings with it an air of excitement and anticipation. Unlike his predecessor, De Sarno is a relative newcomer to the brand and as such, is poised to infuse it with newfound vigour.
Born in Naples, Italy, De Sarno’s fashion career includes stints at Prada and Dolce & Gabbana before joining the ranks at Valentino in 2009. Yes, for the past 13 years, before taking on the role of creative director at Gucci, De Sarno has been a driving force within the design studio at Valentino, witnessing and contributing to the brand’s transformation from a symbol of old-school elegance to a global trendsetter, one that commands attention on social media and sets global fashion trends.
His creative genius also extended to designing last year’s most high-profile wedding dress, worn by Nicola Peltz at her wedding with Brooklyn Beckham.
De Sarno unveiled his highly-anticipated debut collection for Gucci during Milan Fashion Week in September this year, marking the dawn of an exciting era for the renowned Italian luxury fashion house.
3. Olivier Rousteing for Balmain: The ‘Wonder Boy’
Olivier Rousteing is the wunderkind of Balmain, celebrating an impressive 12 years at the helm since his appointment at the young age of 24. Rousteing’s imprint on the brand is unmatched as he’s crafted a signature style that’s instantly recognisable. He began his career at Roberto Cavalli before joining Balmain as a creative director. Under his stewardship, the brand became the first French label to amass a staggering one million Instagram followers back in 2015, setting the digital world on fire.
Olivier also spearheaded the brand’s collaboration with Kylie Cosmetics, proving that his influence extends far beyond the runway. While he draws inspiration from the French fashion house’s rich archives and the atelier’s traditional couture techniques, Olivier brings a contemporary, music-infused outlook that resonates with the young Balmain Army. Each season, his runways not only showcase fashion but also the vibrant, inclusive culture that defines the Balmain of today.
His personal journey is chronicled in the captivating Netflix documentary Wonder Boy, offering an intimate look into his life as a fashion maestro.
4. Pharrell Williams for Louis Vuitton: The Music-Fashion Maestro
Meet the man who’s orchestrating a symphony of style at Louis Vuitton – Pharrell Williams.
After the tragic passing of Virgil Abloh, Pharrell stepped into the role of creative director, marking a historic moment as he became the second black American designer to lead the French luxury house. But Pharrell’s clout extends far beyond being one of the best creative directors in the industry today as he’s also a musical sensation and a visionary entrepreneur. With 13 Grammy Awards to his name, including an Academy Award nomination for ‘Happy’, Pharrell’s influence spans the music and fashion industries alike. A fixture at fashion weeks, he also co-owns streetwear labels like Billionaire Boys Club and oversees a skincare line called Humanrace.
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Pharrell’s creative journey extends to collaborations with renowned brands like Chanel and Tiffany, showcasing his versatile genius. His appointment at Louis Vuitton promises a new and exciting era for the iconic brand, one that will blend luxury with streetwear sensibilities.
5. Harris Reed for Nina Ricci: The Gender Fluid Visionary
At just 26 years of age, Harris Reed etched his name in fashion history by becoming the youngest-ever creative director for the luxury fashion house Nina Ricci. With a demure look that exudes confidence beyond his years and flowing blond hair that frames his fixed stare, Harris Reed is a force to be reckoned with.
His creations celebrate gender-fluidity and inclusivity, putting the wearer in front and centre. Growing up with a strong sense of self, he quickly recognised the transformative power of clothing in shaping identity and liberation. While still a student at Central Saint Martins, Harris caught the attention of icons like Harry Styles, Solange, Alessandro Michele and Ezra Miller. His demi-couture creations garnered high-profile press and interviews, and after graduation, he continued to dress VIPs in his boundary-pushing designs. Harris’s design process draws inspiration from pressing social and political issues, with a focus on fashion’s responsibility to spark conversations about today’s injustices.
His pieces have graced the likes of Iman, Emma Watson, Harry Styles and Lil Nas X. For Harris, fashion is a revolution, a powerful tool to create an expressive and accepting world. Beyond clothing, Harris has expanded into home fragrances, gender-fluid makeup with MAC cosmetics and a jewellery collection with Missoma.
6. Simon Porte Jacquemus for Jacquemus: The French Nonconformist
Simon Porte Jacquemus, at the age of 33, is one of the most revered and famous creative directors in the world of fashion in 2023.
He burst onto the fashion scene when he was just 20 with his eponymous label, Jacquemus. Known for his ability to deconstruct fashion norms, Simon has reimagined iconic French elements with a twist that blurs the lines between commercial and conceptual fashion. His collections are a delightful blend of whimsy, surrealism and the daringly ‘NSFW’.
The name of his fashion label also pays homage to his mother, whom he tragically lost in 2008. Simon’s collections exude a childlike spirit and freedom, characterised by asymmetrical designs, oversized silhouettes, experimental makeup and unconventional runway presentations. His creative genius extends beyond clothing, with forays into footwear and accessories. He’s also a master of social media, curating an Instagram presence that’s as playful as his designs. Simon even published a photography book, La Grande Motte, in tandem with one of his collections.
To sum up, for those who seek fashion that breaks boundaries and challenges the status quo, Simon Porte Jacquemus is your guy.
7. Fernando J Garcia for Oscar de la Renta: The Architect of Elegance
Fernando Garcia’s journey is nothing short of spectacular, a narrative that weaves together his early exploration of the picturesque landscapes of the Dominican Republic and northern Spain with his unwavering passion for creativity.
His affinity for sketching on napkins eventually led him on a transformative path that seamlessly blended art, architecture and the world of fashion. After completing his architectural studies at the esteemed University of Notre Dame, Garcia embarked on a life-altering journey to New York. There, he undertook an internship at the iconic fashion house Oscar de la Renta. Over the course of six remarkable years, he ascended to the prestigious role of principal designer, meticulously honing his design and craftsmanship skills.
Notably, his creative prowess played an instrumental role in shaping some of Oscar de la Renta’s most iconic evening wear pieces. It was during this tenure that Garcia crossed paths with Laura Kim, and their collaboration led to the inception of another fashion label – Monse. Presently, Fernando Garcia also assumes the esteemed position of creative director at Oscar de la Renta alongside Laura Kim. Their combined talents continue to leave an indelible mark on the fashion industry.
8. Daniel Lee for Burberry: The English Innovator
Burberry announced Daniel Lee as its newly appointed Chief Creative Officer in 2022, heralding a new era of style and innovation. Daniel, a 37-year-old English fashion designer, brings a wealth of experience and creativity to the iconic British brand. Before joining Burberry, he served as the creative director of the Italian luxury fashion house Bottega Veneta from 2018 to 2021 and famously did a remarkable revival of the brand. He was previously the director of ready-to-wear design at Celine and has also worked at Maison Margiela, Balenciaga and Donna Karan.
In his new role, Daniel oversees all Burberry collections and even presented his debut runway showcase at London Fashion Week in February 2023. Under his creative leadership, Burberry is poised to soar to new heights, building on its historic heritage and carrying forward Riccardo Tisci’s legacy.
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(Header and feature image courtesy: Credits – Instagram/Gucci and Alexander McQueen)