Business Insights | How does the creative director’s aura of influence empower a brand’s marketing narrative?

The aura of influence is becoming a passphrase for designers to unlock the throne of brand creative director.

According to a number of headhunting agencies, although excellent design attainments and a good reputation in the industry are still important prerequisites for designers to gain high positions in the fashion industry, the inspection dimensions of leading fashion houses on creative leaders are becoming more and more diversified. All expect creative directors to be proficient in network ecology, have cross-domain creative breadth, and the ability to inspire groups.

Emma Davidson, managing director of London-based executive search firm Denza Limited, says her clients are now looking for a candidate’s influence when recruiting creative talent, and they’re even willing to put opinion leaders in key positions. According to Emma Davidson’s recollection, there was an Italian luxury brand who bluntly proposed that they were looking for a creative director like Olivier Rousteing. It’s not his work that the brand looks at, but his social circle, and on Instagram, Olivier Rousteing is always dressed up for partying and mingling with popular stars.

Looking at the appointment notices of major brand creative directors in the past year, it is not difficult to find such a trend: a considerable number of newcomers have been selected by virtue of their asymmetrical and powerful influence, such as the 26-year-old cutting-edge designer Harris Reed recently. Get an olive branch from Nina Ricci as the brand’s youngest creative director since its founding in 1932. Harris Reed advocates the beauty of gender fluidity, and its designs are known for their exaggerated lines and avant-garde silhouettes, which are described by the industry as “semi-couture”. Before winning the heavyweight position of Nina Ricci, Harris Reed had already become popular due to the frequent flops of the stars. The dresses he designed were worn by British singer Harry Styles to shoot the cover of the American version of “VOGUE”. The signature gorgeous Feather costumes were worn by legendary supermodel Iman, music diva Beyonce and hip-hop singer Lil Nas X.

In addition to Harris Reed, Ferragamo’s Maximilian Davis and now Bally’s Rhuigi Villaseñor also have star-studded loyalists. Maximilian Davis graduated from the London College of Fashion and had no working experience in any head luxury brand before entering Ferragamo, but the personal brand he founded in 2020 has won a number of trend vanes such as Rihanna, Dua Lipa, Kim Kardashian in a short period of time ‘s favorite.

Similarly, Rhuigi Villaseñor founded Rhude, a Los Angeles streetwear brand, before holding hands with Bally, cutting into the exotic perspective of American culture in childhood, using stitching, totems and printing elements to create, and the single product has a high visibility on social media. Rhuigi Villaseñor’s first costume was picked up by rapper Kendrick Lamar, and young idols like Justin Bieber and BLACKPINK Rosé are also on Rhude’s customer list.

As for the LVMH Group’s choice to hand over the important task of revitalizing Kenzo to Japanese designer Tomoaki Nagao (Nigo), there is a market argument that in the context of street and youth, LVMH’s choice is also because Nigo is in the trendy cultural circle. influence. From A Bathing Ape, to Human Made, to Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, co-founded with American rapper Pharrell Williams, Nigo has cemented his pioneering status with several popular brands, and he has joined the American rap scene with Kanye West and others. The contacts of leading figures are also a highlight of their resumes.

The trend of the job market has changed, and there have been corresponding waves in the fashion college, and a large number of courses and trainings focusing on the shaping of personal influence have emerged as the times require. For example, the Istituto Marangoni Academy in Paris’ latest assignment for second-year students is to create and run an Instagram account. Valérie Berdah-Levy, head of the academy, explained that the school’s push to reform the curriculum so that the content of the teaching is not only centered on design, but also hopes that students will develop more skills and learn how to present and communicate their creations. In this era, creative directors cannot hide in ivory towers to work. They need to be seen and able to communicate with the outside world. “Creative directors are also an opinion leader to some extent.”

According to Valérie Berdah-Levy, students are now working towards influential designers like Virgil Abloh, Nigo, Marine Serre, Olivier Rousteing and Simon Porte Jacquemus, and “students are especially after role models – a fashion designer can Have different hobbies and be creative in areas other than fashion.”

After the above-mentioned cases, it is not difficult to see that “influence” has become a hot concept in the fashion circle. But what exactly is “influence,” and what exactly qualifies as a designer?

When brands judge the influence of designers today, they mostly measure them according to three criteria. First, an influential designer should have a vision that can quickly gain customer recognition. In the past, the responsibilities of the creative director were more focused on product creation, but with the iteration of the industry, the functional boundaries of the creative director are also expanding. Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing also used himself as an example to explain the meaning of the modern creative director’s job. He said the “design series” wasn’t enough to encapsulate the whole of the character. As a creative director, he also needs to be committed to developing and executing the brand’s comprehensive vision, and this vision needs to resonate with consumers and fans in the community.

Nowadays, whether it is through internal promotion or external poaching to select creative directors, in order to clarify whether candidates are suitable for the highest efficiency, brands will basically ask candidates to explain their vision for the brand during interviews. Valentina Maggi, Head of Designer Recruitment at Floriane de Saint-Pierre et Associés, an HR consultancy, pointed out, “In addition to the ability to create collections and products, today’s creative directors must know how to apply their vision to the brand and the world. on the tool.”

According to Floriane de Saint Pierre, a fashion industry consultant, creative leaders can come from both the traditional fashion education system and other creative fields, but regardless of their background, designers who want to be successful must give the ideal society The vision of Catalyst Utility makes brand customers want to be part of this community of values.

Secondly, the amount of star customer resources is also a measure of the designer’s influence. Launchmetrics, a data marketing analysis platform for luxury and fashion brands, said that Nigo’s debut in Kenzo last January earned the brand a media influence value of up to $6.6 million, making it the most influential Paris Fashion Week alongside Louis Vuitton and Dior. Power’s three launch shows. Launchmetrics believes that the success of the show is inseparable from the bonus of the stars present, “The star-studded front row of the show has aroused widespread media discussion, and more than half of the content related to the brand on the Internet has mentioned various Hip-hop artists like Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Tyler The Creator”.

Tiffany Reid, vice-president of fashion at media firm Bustle Digital Group, said trends were first shown on the runway at Fashion Week, but they were rarely imitated by a wide audience. If you want to really make these trends hit the mass market, you still need high-energy stars to lead. In other words, for a fashionable luxury brand that is in urgent need of returning to the mainstream, if it wants to reshape the outside world’s perception of the brand through the high-frequency exposure of the new series, it is far from enough for the creative director to make drastic reforms. High-potential media such as stars are hot-starting the dissemination of the brand’s new image.

Furthermore, the level of influence of a creative director also depends on the breadth of his creative network. Valérie Berdah Levy says students see Virgil Abloh and Nigo as influential creative directors, largely because of their “slash life”. Virgil Abloh broke the inherent operating paradigm of a creative director. He once revealed his work status in an interview – there are 8 international flights a week, and there are more than 300 days of flight plans throughout the year, except for Louis Vuitton and Off-White. He also participates in several curatorial and joint projects every year. Nigo is also a multi-tasking creative director whose tentacles have extended to music production, DJing and graphic design.

At a time when the attention grabbing is fierce, if the creative director brings his own aura of influence, then the brand will gain a first-mover advantage in the traffic competition. Floriane der Saint Pirre said that nowadays brands need to have influence on the Internet in order to make a difference in the industry, “The home isolation and travel restrictions under the epidemic have promoted the use of social networks by the public, and we are completely living in attention. In the economy, attention has become a scarce resource of extraordinary value. If a brand cannot capture the attention of others, it cannot create any desire, and it will be difficult to sell a product or a dream in the long run.”

Taking Off-White as an example, after the death of Virgil Abloh, the brand appointed Ibrahim Kamara, the current editor-in-chief of Dazed, the famous fashion director and stylist, as the new art and image director. Judging from the brand’s official statement, this appointment is mainly based on the strong bond Ibrahim Kamara has formed with the brand. It is reported that every look on Off-White’s previous show was organized by Ibrahim Kamara. However, some analysts pointed out that Off-White is actually looking at the influence of the designer himself. Ibrahim Kamara has a total of nearly 250,000 followers on Instagram. ” and other well-known magazines have also received extensive attention.

It is worth pointing out that young consumers represented by millennials are more likely to form a sense of identity with the influential new generation of creative directors. Bain’s data shows that “Millennials” have become the main force of luxury consumption, and it is expected that they will account for 45% of the total global luxury consumption by 2025, so find an idea that can resonate with young consumers at the same frequency Director has become a top priority for major brands. Although the emerging designers are still inexperienced and have many uncertainties, their creative presentation methods, design thinking and empathy for young consumers make them more effective in bringing new brands to life. Has a winning side. For brand owners, handing over the brand to young design talents who have the right to speak and can influence the attitudes of the new generation of consumers is undoubtedly a shortcut for the brand to regenerate.

In addition, when the creative director is involved in multiple creative fields, it also helps the brand to efficiently develop business and make a big business plate. As the consumer threshold becomes higher, the effect of a single category is not as good as before. If a brand wants to maintain its leading position and seek long-term development, it must continue to bring new stories. Cross-border expansion is one of the feasible paths. On the one hand, brand layout in new areas can create information increments for its own narrative. On the other hand, when all aspects of consumers’ lives are touched, it is also conducive to stimulating more consumer demand and enhancing brand awareness. sticky.

However, in the eyes of many people in the industry, a creative director with an aura of influence may not be a must for all brands. Like Hermès and Chanel, their products and brand stories are highly anti-cyclical, and their customer base is highly loyal. Therefore, even if the creative director is relatively low-key, the brand can still capture the attention of the outside world and achieve long-term stable development. Conversely, if a brand can’t “keep things the same,” then it needs to rely on an influential creative director to reinvigorate and reshape perceptions.

In a time when attention is becoming more and more distracted, change is important, but what is more important is how to make change visible. WWD

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