Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ins and Outs of Fashion.....A Primer.

Peter Som is OUT.

I don't mean in the "I'm gay" sense of Out. I mean OUT as creative Director of Bill Blass Couture. Another mirror broken in what was once a beautiful house. It is a Primer on the vagaries of the now treacherous title of "Creative Director" .

First of all, one must be cautious of the musical chair effect: also known as the high speed ,out of control, merry go round effect. But in this case the one I like to call the Pump and Dump effect. Pump the designer with press and hope it validates a struggling house, buys it editorial coverage and perhaps even a little play at retail. If that tactic doesn't quite produce the desired return on your investment then Dump the designer. In this case unload the house to any bidder to pay off the banks for other businesses value more.When a design house goes through four designers in about five years plus, one has to wonder if all is well in the back office. Are the principals of the company clear or present? Do they have any idea of what they want to achieve? Do they know anything about the candidates for this most important hire?

Can they look past the press and suggestions from the press as to who has the ability to do the job? Can they add one plus one and come up with 2, or a number less than that? Let's just assume the answer in most cases is NO.

Peter Som is not to blame. He like the others: Steven Slowick, Lars Nillson and Michael Vollbract, as well as the various members of the design room support staff were collectively not the best choices for the Directorship of the house. All are talented in their own ways , just not suitable for that particular position. Bill left some mighty big John Lobb's to fill .It takes a sensibility, a uniquely American couture approach to start where he left off and go forward. It's not about press covered candidates , necessarily, but a designer with an aesthetic that is in sync with the spirit of Mr. Blass' take on design, the client who is the backbone of the business and the new audience to come.

It's not about talking your way in. The work, one's body of work to that point and perhaps a sample collection or plan of what one sees for the direction and growth of the house are what should be studied and given serious thought and dissection. Too many I fear have danced and chattered their way into the job. One can't help but wonder the effect of recommendations from the Power Press.which is the same as an arm twist parading as a caress. If the owners hire a Darling then the press will follow and editorialize the collection. But if not, then god help the owners. What I'm getting at is the fear of not hiring a press darling blinds the eyes of what is best for the future of the design house. What is best for business. NOT what is the best choice to please the press.

Too many will jump to the conclusion that the Doctor is the only answer. That would be Dr. Tom Ford. I suggest Alternative Medicine. Either a designer with the right genes or forsake the collection and just focus on licenses. Just know that historically if one is hired to take the helm, one can only realistically expect to hold on for 1-2 years. Your most important priority is an iron clad contract that offers a respectable compensation and a very golden parachute. Not gold colored or gold plated....a golden parachute you can bite and taste it's authenticity. That is unfortunately what you can be most sure of, unless things change immediately, is that the revolving door effect will continue . Sucking one in and blowing one out.

A sad commentary on the industry . But this is where we are now. One can always hope things are going to change. Good design will be valued and ersatz styling will show itself for what it is.

The owners of Bill Blass might consider doing their homework instead of running outside to play marbles in the backyard.


Anonymous said...

Now Portfolio is saying Som's not out, he's actually renegotiating his contract. Thoughts?

Suffering For Fashion: Peter Som Not A Quitter

Anonymous said...

I think you should make a new start and forget about the past.