Why Are Designers Becoming So Expendable?

Riccardo Tisci, Alessandro Michele, Jeremy Scott, Bruno Sialelli, Tom Ford, Charles de Vilmorin, Rhuigi Villaseñor, Ludovic de Saint Sernin, Garbiella Hearst. Photo Illustration: Puck; Photos via Getty Images.
Lauren Sherman
June 8, 2023

Earlier this week, in the wake of the yet-to-be officially confirmed Gabriela Hearst-exiting-Chloé news, Twitter regular Linda @Itgirlenergy posted a list of star (and superstar) designers who had left their positions in the last two years: among them, Riccardo Tisci (Burberry), Alessandro Michele (Gucci), Jeremy Scott (Moschino), and Bruno Sialelli (Lanvin). Other members of this constellation would also include Tom Ford high-tailing it from his namesake house, Charles de Vilmorin saying goodbye to Rochas, and Ludovic de Saint Sernin leaving Ann Demeulemeester after one season. Linda didn’t even get to Rhuigi Villaseñor’s Bally departure or GmbH duo’s Trussardi exit, mentioned by LiveJournal O.G.-turned-TikTok star Bryan Yambao, better known as Bryanboy. As New York Times fashion reporter Elizabeth Paton noted recently, “Does feel like a lot more designer churn than usual right now…” 

To be clear, not all of these designers were fired. Even after selling to Estée Lauder Companies, Ford could almost certainly have stayed put as long as Karl Lagerfeld stuck around at Chanel… so, forever. However, most were fired, with some contracts even cut short. WWD later reported that Hearst would show her last collection in September, which explains why her departure hasn’t been officially announced yet. 

Regardless of each oh-so-specific circumstance, the consensus is that designers are cycled in and out more quickly now than ever, especially at smaller fashion companies that don’t have the infrastructure to build machines around their creative leads. Burberry, a bigger company that derives most of its revenue from places other than the runway, gave Tisci five years. (His replacement, former Bottega Veneta head Daniel Lee, may get as much time.) But presumably, a brand like Ann Demeulemeester—owned by New Guards Group co-founder Claudio Antonioli—doesn’t have the luxury to let De Saint Sernin work it out for a few seasons.