When a new designer takes over a storied fashion house -- something that seems to be happening a lot lately -- there are many ways in which the house can meet (or not meet) the public's high level of anticipation in the months leading up to his or her first collection.
This season's most highly anticipated debut will be former Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquiere's for Louis Vuitton, set for March 5 in Paris. We haven't heard anything from him since his appointment was announced last fall, and we're not going to. There will be no previews or interviews before the show, "to heighten the surprise," says WWD. (We're still waiting to confirm with LVMH that this is true.)
Perhaps Ghesquiere merely wants to avoid questions about Balenciaga's lawsuit against him. Either way, it's a frustrating stance for fans and for journalists who want something to write about. But is it bad for the brand, too? Let's take a look at how some other designers have handled this in recent seasons:
Hedi Slimane drew criticism for (among other things) declining interviews both leading up to his debut for Saint Laurent and following it. However, with his confusing rebranding efforts that preceded his actual ready-to-wear debut, Slimane definitely gave us a lot to talk about. Still, his handling of the press may have contributed their negative reception of him and his collections. At the same time, as little as he gave us, he's kept us talking. And his accessories? They're selling like hotcakes.
On the other end of the spectrum was Jeremy Scott, whose debut at Moschino this season was far from quiet. First of all, his appointment was announced on Twitter, and he gave Style.com an interview the very same day. And just a few months later, he unveiled a cheeky pre-fall collection that gave fans an idea of what to expect from his full ready-to-wear debut, which was preceded by a pretty in-depth WWD interview. The brand also appeared to have spent time strategizing the collection's unveiling because the collection, which itself inspired conversation, was suddenly everywhere immediately following the runway show -- from the backs of editors and celebrities, to the cover of a magazine, to the Moschino website, where part of it was already available to shop.
Of course, this is not the norm (at least not yet). Generally, designers seem to give one or two interviews to select outlets. Raf Simons talked to Cathy Horyn and Suzy Menkes for articles in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, respectively, when his appointment was announced. Alexander Wang, too, talked to Menkes ahead of his debut for Balenciaga.
We don't think any of the aforementioned designers ruined the surprise by giving interviews -- anticipation and excitement was still high for all of them, and their collections were reviewed fairly. We can't help but wonder if critics would've had warmer opinions of Slimane -- or at least more to go on while writing their reviews -- had the reticent designer been more approachable. However, people already seem to love Ghesquiere. It seems that all he'll really have to do is meet our high expectations with a stellar collection -- if he can do that, his lack of press leading up to March 5 may not matter much.