It's been a season of second, third, and even fourth chances. After stints at Perry Ellis, Paco Rabanne, and Gap, designer Patrick Robinson is once again staging a comeback--this time, as creative director of Armani Exchange.
We can't say for sure whether either of these comebacks will take, but we can tell you about the returns other designers have staged in the past. Here are fashion's greatest comeback stories:
Designer: Coco Chanel Comeback Story: Chanel famously closed her doors in 1939 at the beginning of World War II. She reopened the atelier in 1953, introducing straighter, simpler skirt suits that went against the nipped-in waist, flared skirt styles made popular by Christian Dior. While the French weren't so welcoming at first, Americans embraced Chanel's new silhouette. That's part of the reason Chanel artistic director Karl Lagerfeld plans on hosting the house's next Metiers D'Arts show in Dallas. “When Chanel reopened, the French press was beyond nasty. The only press that understood it immediately was the American press,” he said in January. “So I think it’s a nice thing to go there.”
Marc Jacobs Marc Jacobs was fired from Perry Ellis in 1992 after debuting his now-iconic "grunge" collection. But in 1997, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault, who at the time was installing young designers at all his big houses—Galliano at Dior, Alexander McQueen at Givenchy, Narciso Rodriguez at Loewe, Michael Kors at Céline—hired Jacobs as creative director of Louis Vuitton. Arnault also agreed to finance Jacobs's namesake collection. The rest is modern fashion history.
Isaac Mizrahi Mizrahi made a name for himself in the early Nineties with a fresh approach to American sportswear. Chanel's parent company invested in the brand, and Mizrahi starred in the famous documentary Unzipped. But Chanel shuttered the label in 1998 because of sluggish sales. The designer's Target line, which launched in 2002, marked his comeback. Mizrahi left Target in 2008 for Liz Claiborne, although that partnership proved less successful. In 2011, he sold his company to Xcel brands, launching a signature fragrance along with shoes and other products.
Yves Saint Laurent While his first collection for the house of Dior was well-received, Saint Laurent's second and third attempts were vilified by the press. The iconic designer was fired from the house of Dior in 1960, just days after he entered the military to serve in the French army during the Algerian War of Independence. He and Pierre Berge—the man who would be his lifelong partner—sued Dior for breach of contract. They won, and were able to launch a namesake collection with the funds. His Rive Gauche shows, which began in 1966, introduced the world to prêt-à-porter , or ready-to-wear.
Hedi Slimane Five years after leaving Dior Homme, designer Hedi Slimane returned to fashion in 2012 as creative director of Saint Laurent (as he prefers to call it). Two seasons in, Slimane's work is beloved by buyers, hated by the press. His Fall 2013 collection, an ode to Courtney Love, brought out the worst in critics. But Slimane isn't finished yet. After all, we're still anxious to see next season's collection, aren't we?
Diane von Furstenberg DvF first made a mark on the fashion scene in the 1970s with—you guessed it—her iconic wrap dress. Women were heading to work in droves, and von Furstenberg provided them with a comfortable, flattering alternative to the pantsuit. However, her business dwindled in the 1970s and '80s. She relaunched in 1997, just in time for Gwyneth Paltrow to start wearing vintage DvF dresses. The designer is now the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and runs an empire that includes clothing, home goods, accessories, beachwear, fine jewelry and more.
Betsey Johnson After filing for bankruptcy protection in 2012, Johnson was forced to shutter her 60-plus retail stores and let go most of her staff. With the help of business partner Steve Madden, Johnson is relaunching, this time with an affordable dress collection at Macy's. Oh, and the crazy runway shows? Still happening.
Jil Sander It's hard to keep track of Jil Sander's multiple comebacks, but we'll try. In 1999, the Prada Group bought Jil Sander The Label. Jil Sander The Designer did not get along with Prada Group CEO Patrizio Bertelli (Mrs. Prada's husband), so she resigned in 2000. However, Sander was asked to return in 2003, and she did. One year later, she said goodbye again. In 2006, the Prada Group sold Jil Sander The Label to a private equity firm. (It's currently owned by Onward Holdings, a Japanese fashion conglomerate.) In 2009, Jil Sander The Designer began working with Uniqlo on a seasonal collection called +J. In 2012, she returned to Jil Sander The Label as its creative director.
And Finally... Designer Comebacks We'd Love to See The three designers who we hope won't keep us waiting for eternity. Helmut Lang Lang left fashion for fine art in 2005, but given the industry's habit of copying his most iconic designs again and again, it would be nice to see him return. Until then, there's always vintage.
Martin Margiela The J.D. Salinger of the fashion world, we know for sure that it's been at least four years since the enigmatic designer stood at the helm of his namesake label. Will he ever design again? Or at least show his face?
Luella Bartley The former journalist won praise in the mid-Aughts for her geek-chic British schoolgirl look and a collection of It-bags (when It-bags were the thing). She shuttered her label in 2009, but we still have hope for her return.