If you're a follower of street style, menswear or luxury e-commerce, you're likely familiar with Justin O'Shea. The impeccably dressed, heavily tattooed front-row fixture became well-known during his stint as the global fashion director at MyTheresa, the German online retailer that was acquired by Neiman Marcus Group in 2014. He originally joined the MyTheresa team in 2009 as its buying director, and while his business acumen and knack for styling are apparent, he has no training as a designer — which makes his latest industry gig especially surprising.
On Wednesday, the Kering-owned Italian menswear house Brioni announced that it has appointed O'Shea as its new creative director, filling the vacancy left by designer Brendan Mullane, who departed in February after three and a half years at the label. According to a press release, O'Shea will be "responsible for the brand's collections as well as its image," effective April 1. The appointment comes at a tumultuous time for the house: WWD reported earlier this month that Brioni was in the midst of layoffs following a significant decline in demand for the brand from its wholesale partners, and that, according to an analyst, revenue for fiscal 2015 was down 20 million euros, or $22.2 million.
Considering how many labels are prioritizing cultural relevancy and commerciality today, bringing in an experienced buyer with proven insight into what sells — despite a lack of design training — is a clear sign of the times. It's also especially applicable to Brioni's specific troubles. Plus, it doesn't hurt that O'Shea has a devoted online fanbase, with Tumblr pages dedicated to his style and an Instagram following of 80,000. (His girlfriend, Veronika Heilbrunner, has an equally large online audience.) In a statement, Kering's CEO of Luxury - Couture & Leather Goods Emerging Brands Grita Loebsack echoes this point: "An unconventional profile for such a position, Justin brings a holistic approach and strong understanding of business. I believe his vision will accurately translate into this role and add a distinctive signature to the House."
This is not the first time that a tastemaker, street style star or otherwise popular industry personality has taken on a design-heavy role — just think back to Opening Ceremony founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon's 2011 appointment at Kenzo, or the wildly successful collaborations that Olivia Palermo, Alexa Chung and the like turn out time and time again for a host of different brands. It's a savvy move on the marketing front, for sure. But is the combination of O'Shea's cool-factor, buying background and aspirational personal style enough to convince a younger generation to invest in super-luxurious suiting and outerwear, some of which retails for over $10,000? We'll certainly have Brioni on our radar in the months ahead to see how O'Shea aligns the label's historic signatures with his own.
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