We’ll ignore unsourced morning Dior buzz that Riccardo Tisci is a ‘go’ at Christian Dior and focus on WWD’s business assessment of the candidates, which is totally on target with our own. Like NYT Cathy Horyn, WWD questions Tisci’s design vision as lacking femme fatale glamour but agrees that he’s the front runner.
I’ve written why I adore Tisci as a man designing for women — a guy who truly loves women. The designer’s personal relationships impress me greatly for their apparent substance, as described by his friends.
My impression of the talented designer got another boost this week, reading Vogue UK’s story about Riccardo Tisci not wanting to take the Givenchy job in 2005 and what changed his mind.
“I wasn’t interested,” says Tisci. “Not at all. I was going to say no. But the week before, my mother called me and said to me, ‘I am going to tell you something I haven’t even told your sisters: I think I am going to sell our house because your sisters are struggling, they’re able , they’re having children, they need the money. I will go to a retirement home.’ When I heard that it was like a knife in my heart. I felt like such a failure, that my mother had to sell the house of my father whom I don’t remember. And then I went to Paris, and they showed me a contract with all these zeros on it, and it was like help from God. I thought ‘If I sign this, my mother will never have to worry again.’ So I signed it.”
Buried Pasts Are Reborn in a Flash
The John Galliano fallout is still simmering around the Christian Dior brand. Even the Jerusalem Post wrote about the Nazi history of its founder and the reality that “Collusion with the Nazis produced enormous profits for the French fashion industry during the period between 1941 and 1943.
The video of Christian Dior’s niece Francoise in 1963 to the British Nazi Colin Jordan has been traveling the Internet, although not at AOC. While the furor has been understandably focused on Galliano’s comments about loving Hitler, he made some pretty abominable statements about women, too.
Unedited original video in French here
Bottom line, the entire topic of imperious fashion designers and their views of the women who buy their clothes is simmering. I know, because I ruffled some VIP feathers myself last weekend, writing Franca Sozzani’s Petition Fights Pro Anorexic Websites | Vogue Italia.
Of course we support the petition, and I signed it. But I disagree that the fashion industry has nothing to do with the size 0 obsession in women, and I’ve explained why endless times.
Sizing Up America
True, American and British women are notoriously undisciplined about our weight. I never debate this reality when misogyny is on my mind. Thankfully I’ve spent years my life in Europe, and I’m the first to admire the self-discipline of French and Italian women, when the subject is food.
Yes, the luxury market is moving to Asia. Japan accounted for 25% of the luxury market before the earthquake and China 19%. Asian women are even smaller and — certainly in the case of Japanese women — notoriously submissive, compared to European women. Chinese women are more of a mixed bag, and I’ve known some ace Chinese businesswomen in my career.
American women must understand that in terms of the luxury market, our size often takes us out of it, at least in ready-to-wear. Leather goods, beauty, sunglasses aren’t body conscious.
Personal Values Are Now Part of One’s Creative Portfolio
As financial analysts trim their forecasts for 2011 in the luxury market, Bernard Arnault is holding his breath and probably trying to build more stores in China as fast as he can. It’s a toss up today whether Japan’s newly found set of post-tsunami values questioning whether one 23-year-old assistant really needs to invest in 10 Gucci handbags will hold true six months from now.
Bottom line, even before John Galliano had his drunken tirade, the sands were shifting away from the talented if tyrannical designer because the financial risks are just too high these days. The new values paradigm is calling up a different luxury customer, one both Bernard Arnault is tracking, even if some fashion designers are out of touch.
To be blunt — which I notoriously am — the next designer at Christian Dior must possess extraordinary talents but also a nice personality. As the ‘face’ of the brand, s(he) must be authentic and grounded in an emerging zeitgeist in which personal values are relevant and part of one’s talent package.
Women aren’t little soldiers who need to get our marching orders from imperious personalities telling us who and what to be as women. It’s Tom Ford who told Interview Magazine that many fashionistas are truly insecure in their identities, and I agree with him. But I also see evolution ahead, as women wise up to what’s going on around us.
The Internet plays a role here, too. My writing finds a significant audience — 250,000 strong this month, with 40% being existing readers and the rest new. Our own websites are growing at a blistering pace, two-thirds women and disproportionately making over $100,000 a year. We are a dream team for the luxury market, based on our web stats (www.AnneofCarversville.com)
My entire career has focused not on my vision of what women should be — except more sensual — but helping them be their best selves. Ben’s readers may have more design credentials, but I have the women who buy your designs. Unlike most American business people who sacrifice creativity for productivity and scale, I honor most European values and defend them rigorously — to a point.
Fashion Fascism and the ‘M’ Word
Told Saturday evening that misogyny against women in the fashion industry is a preposterous idea, I reminded this Parisian VIP that Anne of Carversville’s brand message “from fashion to flogging, telling women’s stories” exists for a reason.
The degree of his upset over my hypothesis confirmed that I struck a very deep nerve. I agreed to remove the upsetting text, because the last thing I need is a lawsuit when I wish to endear myself to European business. But I insisted that he copy and paste exactly the offending sentences, all of them quoted directly from the sources under discussion, into an email and send it to me. To paraphrase, I also said that his attitude surprised me, given the emphasis on independent thinking in Paris.
The AOC materials remain uncensored, presumably after a French attorney agreed with me that the words, actions and images of famous fashion designers can be questioned, especially when given in widely-distributed interviews. Fashion designers are not Gods with a capital G, although I know it’s difficult to remember that reality, when the light bulbs are popping and the careers of young people are made with the nod of the head from Anna Wintour or Karl Lagerfeld.
The imperious mind easily falls into a fascist-like mentality of human relations. Self-discipline (which most of us need much more of) becomes sexual monasticism, especially when the focus is women’s bodies. The Futurist Manifesto — a cornerstone document of the 20th century — expresses a scorn for women as fundamental to its ideology.
Being discriminating in my thinking, there’s a long list of men I adore in Paris fashion: Riccardo Tisci, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs and Alber Elbaz for a warmup. In other cases, I’ve read too many psychology books from Freud to Jung, to ignore what I observe and read in word and deed.
Conversely, Riccardo Tisci’s comments about his mother this morning and the totality of his support of Lea T. make him very human in my eyes. I don’t know him, but I can’t imagine that he is impossibly arrogant.
Bad boy behavior expresses itself on multiple fronts, and we tolerate it under the umbrella of talent and creativity. For all his mercurial abilities so worshipped by the fashion elite, John Galliano didn’t make much money for Christian Dior.
Mark Jacobs has done a great job at Louis Vuitton, which is a significantly larger brand with estimated sales of $7.5 billion vs $1.14 billion at Dior. Operating margins at Louis Vuitton are 45 percent vs 4.2 percent at Dior, writes WSJ. A talented designer must also pay the light bills and salaries of his seamstresses.
The Smart Sensuality Woman
In the same Vogue UK post from last Monday, Tisci tells the Financial Times (source of their story):
It’s a strange time in fashion – everything has got so big. We can get very insular, the fashion tribe – we think we’re a lot of people but actually we’re very small – but my mother, my sisters don’t understand fashion now, which is how I realised what the final consumer feels. They don’t want to buy image, they want to buy substance.”
Bernard Arnault is a very smart man and the corporate values of LVMH are inspirational to read, with brand substance and authenticity — not artifice — high on his priority list. Trust me when I say that Arnault is acutely aware of this shifting values landscape around his core client, the Smart Sensuality woman and will take them deeply into his heart, when choosing John Galliano’s replacement.
The Smart Sensuality women is sexy and smart with heart. She is a stylish, no-nonsense woman, rolling up her sleeves to deal with our mess of a world. She is more confident as a woman, razor sharp, and a growing force to be reckoned with. The l’enfant terrible designer may have to get used to dealing with her as an equal, rather than transforming her into his vision of the perfect woman.
Once a writer has the guts to start this conversation, the number of women — and creatives — coming to her support are quite astonishing. I thank Ben so much for inviting me to contribute to Benjamin Kanarek Blog. I told him he is a brave man. Anne
See also: Smart Sensuality Checklist for New Dior Designer
Post written by Anne Enke from www.AnneofCarversville.com