Fashion is a business built on lies—or dreams, if you want to put it nicely. So it’s no wonder the rumor mill never stops: This designer is going to that house, this executive had an affair with that subordinate, this star takes a separate elevator and uses a different door to get into his studio so he doesn’t have to interact with the plebes, or the multibillion-dollar brand’s other creative directors, etcetera. Most of it isn’t true, or has been heavily embellished, and that’s often the point.
When it comes to Sarah Burton, the former right hand of the late Lee Alexander McQueen and the longtime creative director of his namesake brand, the only thing we know for sure is that she no longer works for that Kering-owned, London-based fashion house. Why she left when she did, with an announcement just before her last show, is less clear to everyone except Burton and Kering’s top executives. More recently, what she’ll do next has become the topic du jour in Europe and England, where the increasing scarcity of female creative directors at top houses has suddenly become something people in the industry—and beyond—purportedly care about. Is she really going to Givenchy, the LVMH-owned couture house currently led by Matthew M. Williams, the kid from Evanston and friend of Kanye and Virgil, whose tenure at the brand has been publicly criticized from the start?
Burton could very well do nothing for the rest of her life. She was undoubtedly paid handsomely for her work since McQueen’s suicide in 2010. Because she was an extension of him, she was able to, somewhat miraculously, successfully follow up on Plato’s Atlantis, his final show—and arguably his most influential. (I’ve said before that most designers have about 10 years of good ideas in them. McQueen was going on 20. His long-term creative partnership with Burton certainly had something to do with that.)