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How Fashion Houses are Affected by the Passing of Designers

By Carmella Contesti

The fashion world is full of creativity and inspiration. It revolves in cycles, taking from history and adding fresh, new perspectives. The designers behind luxury houses guide the industry.  We all know and aspire to be like leading designers such as Alexander McQueen, Virgil Abloh, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood, and more. Abloh brought streetwear into the luxury world while Westwood helped shape the look of punk rock.  Alongside these designers are many more who have challenged the boundaries of design and motivate aspiring designers. Their impact on the fashion industry cannot be forgotten or buried. The work of designers who have passed will live on and be an inspiration to the next.

With exceptional work and awe-inspiring designs, it is hard to move forward after the absence of a lead designer. The passing of a designer leaves a gap in the industry, with pressure on future designers to fill the legacy. The craftsmanship and work of their designs are irreplaceable. The impact left on the world reaches much farther than fashion. Designers challenge cultural norms and explore new possibilities. For the fashion houses, this can be a devastating loss. After a period of mourning, it is important for a fashion house to move forward with fresh perspectives, while carrying on the legacy of a past designer. Their work is eternal and will forever be engraved in the brand.

Even with hope for the next generation of designers, sometimes fashion houses cannot carry on the same legacy as before. Before McQueen passed, he was known for highly original designs that beautifully demonstrated artistry and technical ability. For every collection there was anticipation and excitement to see what groundbreaking clothing would come next. His runway shows were shocking and inventive. He had a burning passion for fashion design and claimed that he would die before letting his brand go mainstream. Now, 12 years later, the McQueen brand is not the same as it used to be. After his passing, the brand did not execute groundbreaking designs. Instead, they produce similar pieces with slight variation. The house has lost its spark in innovation. We are left missing the inventiveness and imagination of McQueen. That said, the house lives on as his remembrance is living on with the brand.

With the success of major designers, fashion houses tend to remain in their comfort zones, thinking the success will continue. But fashion design is centered around innovation and creativity, not comfort. We need to keep evolving and find the designers who push boundaries of design. When stepping into Chanel in 1983, Lagerfeld saved the brand as a fashion house. He created an aura that made Chanel blossom. With reinvention and transformation, he revived the fashion house and continually strengthened their image. After his passing in 2019, there is lack of innovation. Now, Chanel stays within its comfort zone. Where did the innovation go?

As shown in several fashion houses, the death of a designer can put the house at a standstill. It leaves us looking for transformation. But consumers often associate fashion designers with their labels. Therefore, the passing of a designer can extremely impact the success of a fashion house, but the emotional connection that is built to the brand does not die with the designer. The loss is very disheartening as their work is incomparable. This proves that fashion is far more than the clothes we wear. It is a family of creatives who inspire, motivate, and pave the way for the next generation of industry professionals. The emotional connection between designers, fashion houses, and consumers is something that can never die. The legacies of those who come before us will remain a key inspiration for the future of fashion. As history is made, new dreams are discovered.

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