So, the remit of Creative Director is more than just designing product: it’s about an overall vision that takes into account the marketing and advertising strategy, the retail environments, the format of the catwalk presentations, the lifestyle that their new label is selling. They can alienate legions of loyal clients, or introduce a plethora of new ones, simply by being appointed. It can launch the career of a young designer when a big brand endorses their talent by signing them, and is often a stepping stone to launching their eponymous own label collections.
Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier, her former design partner at her own ill-fated label, have been recruited to head up the Marc by Marc Jacobs line, bringing a funky youthful spirit to the brand.
But, in a desperate bid to add that elusive street cred, many brands make bizarre appointments and I question the Brand integrity of them: Justin Timberlake as Creative Director for Bud Light? Alicia Keys in a similar role at Blackberry? Victoria Beckham at Range Rover? These incongruous collaborations simply don’t work for me.
They are PR stunts, rather than true creative roles. They bring power, but it’s superficial and short-sighted. It’s like putting Angelina Jolie or Nicole Kidman in the lead role of a movie: it might draw people to the Box Office, but it doesn’t mean the film will be good. And too many flops dilute the actor’s reputation.
Better to appoint a lesser-known visionary who has the right synergy with your brand and let them grow so they are synonymous with your business. When Tomas Maier joined Bottega Veneta, he wasn’t high profile but had already demonstrated a heartfelt passion for leather. When I appointed Clare Waight Keller as Creative Director at Pringle, she had proved herself as someone who had knitwear at the core of her designing. When I first met with her, I knew she was right for Pringle, but recognized even then that she had a style about her work that said ‘Chloe’ to me. Her appointment there has been a natural career progression. If you can find someone whose heart beats in time with your brand, then they will set everyone else’s pulse racing.