Deaf, dumb and blind. Yep, that's DDB. No one ever expected the company to have the same footprint when it passed from the hands of Emanuel to Asim Abdullah. These changes always bring an eruption of sorts. The old timers want it to stay the same and the new kids want radical, news breaking shifts. What always seems to make or break these rebirths are owners with a vision, a strategy for the future. Patience with the design team as well as the public's perception is also key to a gradual and ideally smooth transition. Listening to the marketplace, the press and one's own gut is a part of the process, but that's where it can get sticky. It's the listening and to whom one listens that can help or confuse. Too often the voices of the crowd carry more weight than the voice in your head. With Ungaro's owner, Asim Abdullah, it's increasingly clear that he hears and sees nothing.
Esteban Cortazar, the first Creative director to take the reins with Ungaro's departure, seemed to be doing a good enough job. The collections were not mind blowing, but that's rare these days. It was sufficient that he was finding his way and bringing the buyers, press and clients along with him. All was well, enough. The insidious virus circling these grand couture houses undergoing cosmetic surgery is always one form or other of the celebrity. The celebrity face, the celebrity endorsement or the most fatal of all, the celebrity Creative Director. The most virulent of infections took over this house when Lindsay Lohan was dragged from the lowest depths of the celebrity pool to come in and Direct the designer and be the face of the company . At the time I was kind of dumbfounded by this decision. Cortazar 's reaction to the hire, and his decision to leave seemed rash and immature. I understood his feelings of revulsion, but also thought he'd outlast this aberration with just a season's patience or two. How long could she possibly last before she got booted or bored ? He left in a huff and Estrella Archs came to the rescue, surely with the same disgust and reservations of having to tackle this huge responsibility with a stoned tween in the driver's seat.
That pivotal collection came off to a cacophony of boos. Archs grimaced and bore it, Lindsay was so wasted she likely doesn't remember if it was a dream or a nightmare. Universally, the fashion community laughed at the company and not in a good way. You'd think that would be the end of Lindsay considering she was responsible for the lion's share of looks that staggered down the runway, but she kept her head and the CEO lost his. From there it went precipitously down hill. Finally, Lindsay got the boot and Estrella took a pass leaving the house of Ungaro rudderless. What to do? Who to hire? Who to advise? I would venture to guess that somewhere at some point the Vogue Employment Agency stepped in and made its recommendations which Abdulla was only too happy to follow.
Giles Deacon, an English designer with his own collection of spotty merit is the name that has bubbled to the surface. He's popular, considered star material by those who know, and has a career that's on the rise. His collections are also wildly inconsistent. The last 3 I've seen have left me puzzled and unmoved. Using Daphne Guinness as muse and design compass is like taking a divining rod to the middle of the Sahara. You'll do a lot of walking until you drop dead of thirst. Daphne is the rich man's Isabella Blow, highly overrated and suspiciously self serving, but those are magic ingredients for stardom on the fashion stage. Deacon's Spring 2010 collection, which prominently featured Daphne as model/muse was sophomoric, repetitive, uninteresting and banal. Those adjectives add up to a very low number in the new scoring system. Giles has shown little zip since then other than his wildly successful note card collection he created for a very highbrow stationer in London featuring his sketches of dresses. I did see signs of life in his recent Fall 2010 collection that looked clean, minimal and had an esoteric twist that showed a promising departure from corset dresses with flyaway skirts. There were conceptual head ornaments that were memorable.
Ungaro has shown itself to be lost in the woods. I'm hopeful this hire, if it turns out to be Deacon, will be fruitful and not leave them adrift at sea.
Arnold Palmer | The Swinging King of the Polo
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