The impact of the international economic recession on the luxury industry has kindled major changes in the way professionals interact, regardless of their field of activity. The need to adapt sales and marketing strategies on a monthly or sometimes even weekly basis in the past three years has been one of the factors which ha
ve made executives more nervous , anxious and at times, depressed. Psychologically, the gloomy general mood of ‘’expect the worse tomorrow’’ has triggered an ebb of motivation and determination, especially in the creative departments. The climax seems to have been reached, recently, by John Galliano’s firing not only from Dior but from his own label.
The ‘’Galliano Case’’ as many have called it, have marked an unprecedented crisis management strategy for a major international luxury brands such as Dior, directly owned by Bernard Arnault, world’s most influential and powerful luxury industry titan, owner of LVMH, the biggest luxury conglomerate. The house of Dior had the most rapid response to Galliano’s brief arrest on anti-Semitic charge, firmly condemning Galliano’s behaviour. Less than a month from Galliano’s arrest, the upcoming Christian Dior fashion show during the Paris Fashion Week calendar not only went ahead but also made a dramatic statement with the entire creative team walking down the catwalk at the end of the show. Dior’s CEO Sydney Toledano added a very brief and sensible speech in which he stressed the incompatibility between the values Dior stands for and Galliano’s moral and behaviour.
Besides the endless media debates about how and if John Galliano will ever be able to repair his damaged reputation, it must be said that this incident has proven in a very direct and descriptive manner that a major luxury fashion brand with an impressive heritage such as Dior is no longer dependant on one person, the creative director or designer. Bernard Arnault himself said that the company was not in a rush to appoint a new creative director and that all projects and commitments would be carried out with or without a new designer. Such projects, following the incident, have included a major exhibition in Moscow and other marketing activities worldwide. The house also announced that the seasonal collection this fall is already being put together by the creative team of the maison.
Whether and when Galliano will make his return to the fashion scene is less relevant given the context that his dismissal came about. In the history of the major established luxury fashion brands, rarely did so many important brands lack a clear strategy regarding imminent replacements, most resounding being Karl Lagerfeld’s retiring at Chanel, silently acquiescing to Dior’s statement that the brand of Chanel is not dependant on Lagerfeld. A similar situation is at competing Gucci Group, where another major French brand, Yves Saint Laurent seems to have postponed indefinitely the replacement of designer Stefano Pilati, whose work did impress media, yet, failed to translate into a successful business.
Media have also been playing an important part in the way strategic synergies between business and creativity are perceived and judged. Many have erroneously compared Galliano’s case with other celebrities which have faced major downturns in their careers due to similar morality issues, especially abuse of drugs and alcohol, and the names of supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell are brought into scope. My belief is that Galliano’s case is completely different and needs to be addressed from different angles in such a way to understand how the industry has changed and what the future holds, rather than anticipating a spectacular ”rise from the ashes” as some have put it.
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