LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault and princess-to-be Catherine Middleton seem to have little in common, but they are now fashion’s most powerful kingmakers.
Soon, the public will know the designer behind Kate Middleton’s wedding gown. The details—length of train, shade of ivory—will affect bridal fashions for decades, even if the gown disappoints. As Middleton has already proven, everything she wears, even ill-fitted, polyester sheaths and Top Shop frocks, become instantly iconic.
But across the Channel, Bernard Arnault has drawn up a list of designers, too, to replace disgraced head couturier John Galliano at the House of Dior. Fashion insiders are keeping careful watch despite royal mania, as Arnault’s choice of chief designer could have an even greater effect on the fashion industry than Middleton’s wedding gown.
Women’s Wear Daily released the rumored list of candidates this week, which includes famous fashion powerhouses like Tom Ford. The shocking new name in the mix is Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton, who was also named the frontrunner on the elusive Middleton list by the London Times.
But who are these designers? Don’t they have other jobs? And which one, if any, will replace Galliano?
They’re a diverse bunch, with varying passports and allegiances to vastly different houses. (Don’t be fooled; fashion rivalries will come into play.) But mostly likely, one of these names will lead Dior out of the scandal of the season.
Our candidate cheat sheet follows.
Past Houses: YSL; Gucci
Current House: Tom Ford
Notes: In 2009, Ford added director to his resume. He directed the feature film “A Single Man,” in which Colin Firth starred. Known for his menswear collections and sharp tailoring, he debuted a critically acclaimed womenswear collection on September 12, 2010, after 6 years without a womenswear line.
Education: Manchester Polytechnic; Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design Past House: Alexander McQueen
Current House: Alexander McQueen
Parent Company: PPR
Notes: Burton began working with McQueen in 1996 as an intern. She admitted being intimidated when she took over for the late designer in 2010 saying to WWD, “That was very much Lee’s territory - the spectacular show…I can’t try and pretend to be Lee.” WWD speculates that if she does create Kate Middleton’s wedding gown, she will jump to the top of Arnault’s list.
Education: Sciences-Po; Art History at the École du Louvre; educated as a tailor
Past Houses: Yves St Laurent; Dior Homme
Current House: No label, www.hedislimane.com
Notes: A true renaissance man, he traded design for photography in 2007. He’s filled his time with curating museum exhibitions, writing books, and designing album covers for bands since leaving Dior Homme.
Education: Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Visuels de la Cambre
Past House: Rochas; Nina Ricci
Current House: Theory
Notes: After his contract (shockingly) was not renewed at Nina Ricci, Theyskens went to Theory and revitalized the brand with edgier designs. Sales have improved significantly under his leadership.
Past Houses: Jean-Paul Gaultier; Callaghan
Current House: Balenciaga
Parent Company: PPR
Notes: He fell into designing the main line for Balenciaga. At age 23, he joined the house after being hired to design a line of uniforms for a Japanese company. He is credited for turning the once unfashionable house of Balenciaga into a major luxury house again.
Education: Shenkar College of Engineering and Design
Past Houses: Geoffrey Beene; Yves St. Laurent; Krizia
Current House: Lanvin
Parent Company: Harmonie S.A
Notes: Known for his business savvy and whimsical, feminine designs, he is credited for turning the struggling house into a gold mine. Since taking over the house in 2001, Lanvin has become one of the most esteemed houses in the industry. Slate’s Simon Doonan calls him “the most copied designer on the planet.” His Lanvin for H&M line made him a household name among fast-fashion shoppers.
Education: Royal Academy of Antwerp; Fashion Academy of Fine Arts
Past Houses: Bernhard Willhelm, Patrick Van Ommeslaeghe
Current House: Haider Ackermann
Notes: Known for his elegant, edgy designs, he was offered the position of creative director at Martin Margiela in 2008 and declined. In November 2010, Karl Lagerfeld named him his hypothetical successor at Chanel.
Education: New Delhi’s National Institute of Fashion Technology; Parsons
Past Houses: Donna Karan; Bill Blass; Cynthia Rowley
Current House: Prabal Gurung (launched in 2009)
Notes: A favorite of Anna Wintour and Michelle Obama, Prabal Gurung is quickly becoming a household name in American fashion, despite launching his eponymous line only two years ago. Since 2010, he’s arguably been the most coveted ticket at New York Fashion Week.
Education: Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design
Past House: Antonio Berardi
Current House: Givenchy
Parent Company: LVMH
Notes: Since 2005, he’s served as creative director of Givenchy’s haute couture and ready-to-wear lines. In March, tabloids announced that he was set to take over at Christian Dior. He is still rumored to be the likely front-runner.