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Did fashion need another male creative director?

It’s not a question of Jones’ competence but rather a questioning of LVMH’s promise to diversity

Did fashion need another male creative director?  It’s not a question of Jones’ competence but rather a questioning of LVMH’s promise to diversity

On Wednesday Roman fashion house FENDI officially announced a major shift in their management as Kim Jones will now take over as artistic director for womenswear collections, haute couture and fur. This essentially means Kim Jones who is also the artistic director of Dior Menswear will continue in both roles at Dior and Fendi, while Silvia Venturini Fendi who was the interim Artistic Director of Fendi will reprise her role as Director of Accessories and Menswear.

While this is incredible news for FENDI and their conglomerate LVMH, one can’t help but ask the question, with Louis Vuitton’s Nicholas Ghesquire; Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia; Gucci’s Alessandro Michele; Burberry’s Riccardo Tisci; Saint Laurent's Anthony Vaccarello; Celine’s Hedi Slimane among many others, did the fashion industry actually need another male executive in the male-dominated industry? 

Following the passing of Karl Lagerfeld early last year, Silvia Venturini Fendi, who was his protege of some sort, was appointed as Artistic Director of the roman house. At the beginning of her journey, things were admittedly off to a rocky start as she learned to fly solo. The first two collections were lukewarm, they were strong in design but lacked editing and were evidently missing Karl’s presence. However, after those two collections, Venturini Fendi produced some of the best womenswear & menswear collections of the season in the past year, with razor-sharp detailed tailoring, each piece was equally sartorially impressive, she even put plus-size models on the runway of her last show — which has never been done in the brand's history before. She was doing so well in terms of design, one could not ask for more than her to go in the direction in which she was going. She was a female artistic director who was thriving in her role which is why her shift in the role is so puzzling and a bit disappointing

Fashion is an industry that is sustained by women but ran mostly by men from a creative and business perspective. A prime example is the industry’s most successful conglomerates LVMH & Kering, who collectively own 19 luxury fashion houses, and of those 19 houses, only 3 of their womenswear artistic directors are female. The reality is a strange complex that doesn’t have much explanation other than possibilities of sexism. In a 2016 study in New York, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) found that 85% of the students who enrolled in fashion schools are female, which is also the case with many other international fashion schools, yet for some reason, they are excluded when it comes to top-level positions. 

According to BOF, women make up more than 70% of the total workforce, but they hold less than 25% per cent of leadership positions in top fashion companies. So in stating this, it is to be clarified that it is not an attack on Kim Jones or his work but rather a question for LVMH,  the decision-makers of both Dior & Fendi on the major choices which they make and a reminder of their pledge to diversity. It is no doubt that Kim Jones is a brilliant artist and will surely thrive in his post at both fashion houses, but what is questionable is the conglomerate’s decision to replace a thriving female designer with a white man who was already employed by them. 

Even in the case where it was Silvia Venturini Fendi who decided to step down, it would have been much more exciting if they appointed ex-Celine Director Phoebe Philo or another woman, considering their promise to diversify their companies. Appointing a new creative director of a luxury company is like appointing a president or vice president and in today’s day and age, one would expect the possibilities of these positions to be open to all kinds of people, and while we are very excited for Kim Jones x Fendi, LVMH’s decision to keep within their own circle is also quite disappointing.