This week, although slightly overshadowed by Gucci’s viral meme campaigns, an interesting phenomena has been circulating various press outlets including the Business of Fashion and New York Times. The emerging phenomena revolves around the current business shake up strategy at Helmut Lang. Move over see now buy now, the next business trend affecting the future of fashion is the editor as the new creative director?
As designers have evolved from couturier to designer to creative director, it is only natural the head of creative would evolve into something new. With today’s world of “content is king”, it comes to almost no surprise that classic maisons and fashion brands are pivoting to become media houses. (It says something that Gucci is becoming a meme-generator)
Helmut Lang the contemporary Austrian designer who defined the aesthetic of the 90’s is owned by Fast Retailing which includes Theory and Uniqlo to its group portfolio. Andrew Rosen, chief executive of Theory and of Helmut Lang, has appointed Isabella Burley, editor of the British youth culture magazine Dazed & Confused, to the newly added position of “editor in residence” opposed to a more traditional appointment of a creative director or artistic director to lead the brand’s creativity.
Ms. Burley will be responsible in the image of Helmut Lang crafting digital content and advertising, bringing unity to the brand’s identity, supervising the in-house design team, and by working alongside external creatives for “special projects”. The first of such projects will be a collaboration with Shayne Oliver, founder of Hood by Air which will result in a men’s and women’s collection presented September 2017 and available for purchase in November.
Speaking to Vanessa Friedman, Rosen explains “Creative directors come and go” referring to the continuous act of musical chairs we see in luxury fashion with designers picked up and placed from one house to another. An editor’s eye encourages more flexibility and an integrated curation which can be understood better by the target audience. Ms. Burley understands the expectations and demands of her readers. She understands who millennials are, what they like thus making her incredibly valuable to the strategy of Helmut Lang who wants to crack the code in pleasing this demographic. Although she will act as editor in residence, Ms. Burley will continue to stay in London and at Dazed, visiting New York once a month to check in on the Helmut Lang team.
This poses the question of the confusion when blurring the lines between media and design. What about the contradicting stakeholders and interests?
However, from a brand’s point of view it seems to be a promising strategy: Better know your audience, creating and integrating exceptional poignant content across platforms and create a curated point of view exemplified this season from the work of Love Magazine editor and chief Katie Grand’s work at Marc Jacobs and Miu-Miu. 2 examples of bringing a print magazine to life.
Most importantly, Mr. Rosen is able to work with a collective group of creatives merging design and editorial together – working with all and attached to none thus making business sense.