The recent difficulties at Balenciaga — over ads with suggestions of child abuse and its ties to rapper Kanye West — have highlighted the risks of having a provocative figurehead.
Creative director Demna (who has dropped his last name Gvasalia) has made Balenciaga arguably the hottest brand of the moment, but his edgy approach and celebrity friends suddenly look like a liability.
Many brands are moving away from the whole idea of the big-name designer.
Louis Vuitton has yet to replace Virgil Abloh since his tragically early death last year, with work now handled by his studio.
That will also be the case at Gucci until further notice, following the departure last month of flamboyant designer Alessandro Michele, whose revamp of the Italian brand was a huge success — until it wasn’t.
Other hot houses — Hermes, Chanel, Dior — are happy to go with designers who keep away from the limelight.
“The situations are different, but they reveal a trend: it’s the golden age of low profiles,” said Arnaud Cadart, of asset management company Flornoy Ferri.
The shift reflects the fact that many brands are now established and don’t need a star.
“Brand identity is no longer about the designer. Designers are interpreters of brand identity,” added Julie El Ghouzzi, of fashion consultancy Cultz.
When Lagerfeld passed away in 2019, his mantle passed to his right-hand man, who has quietly continued his work.
Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski and Veronique Nichanian at Hermes, or Virginie Viard at Chanel, are little-known outside the trade.

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