Designer Burnout Might Not Be as Widespread as We Think

Francisco Costa, Thakoon Panichgul, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim weighed in at Wednesday night's WSJ Innovator Awards.
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Francisco Costa, Thakoon Panichgul, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim weighed in at Wednesday night's WSJ Innovator Awards.
Francisco Costa at WSJ. Magazine's 5th Annual Innovator Awards. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Francisco Costa at WSJ. Magazine's 5th Annual Innovator Awards. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Since the recent and unexpected departures of Alber Elbaz from Lanvin and Raf Simons from Dior, creative burnout suddenly seems like an inevitable consequence of being a designer, if the media's think pieces on their reasons for leaving are anything to go by. But if that's the case, designers were hiding it well as they attended WSJ. Magazine's 5th Annual Innovator Awards at the Museum of Modern Art to honor visionaries in various disciplines from literature to fashion.

Among the fashion luminaries in attendance were honoree Miuccia Prada, Calvin Klein womenswear designer Francisco Costa, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo, and Thakoon Panichgul. Prior to the dinner and awards ceremony, I had the (nerve-racking) opportunity to ask designers about their thoughts on creative burnout and whether the current pace of fashion is sustainable. 

While acknowledging the incredible amount of pressure that all designers face, Costa explained that creative burnout is, respectfully, very individual. "I love what I do. I don't feel like I'll ever get tired of it. It's ok. I find that it's ok. But I think it's very individual." He expressed that, if anything, "we're actually very lucky that we haven't changed as fast as we should have" and that "fashion's actually behind when it comes to a lot of speed up there." Costa also found it to be "exciting across the board" that there is "a new acknowledgement of what this establishment is."

When I asked Panichgul for his take on this matter, he suggested that creative burnout has less to do with the amount of collections that designers have to produce, and more to do with "demands that are being put on the designers to deliver earlier and earlier." But like Costa, he seemed to have an overall positive outlook on the industry, stating that fashion has "become such a broad entertainment industry and I think it's good." 

Meanwhile, for designer duos, it sounds like two may be better than one. Leon and Lim both expressed that they were able to do a lot together. As for whether or not they felt that they had enough time to be inspired, Leon told us, "I feel like every season we're kind of exploring new territories. And the buyers and customers are moving along with us."

Browse the gallery below for photos of the night's guests, from Leon and Lim to Brangelina, below.