Riccardo Tisci confirmed Thursday that he’s exiting Givenchy, where he’s served as creative director for the past 12 years.
The split was reportedly amicable: Both Tisci and Bernard Arnault, CEO of Givenchy parent LVMH, gave thanks to one another for the opportunity and time and work spent together, in respective statements. Tisci, who was a relatively unknown face in fashion when he was hired at age 30 by former Givenchy CEO Marco Gobbetti, is rumored to be heading next to Versace.
Tisci was lauded for his achievement at Givenchy and his role in driving financial success. In his 12 years, he helped grow the brand to six times its size when he inherited it in 2005, to a $540 million business, according to WWD sources. In-house employees swelled from 240 to 930.
No successor has been named to replace Tisci, leaving Givenchy’s creative direction and financial future in the air.
Tisci’s departure throws Givenchy into the crowded ring of brands who have endured designer shake-ups over the past two years. In addition to Givenchy, the designer carousel has affected top-ranking positions at Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, Chloé, Lanvin, DKNY, Valentino, Oscar de la Renta, Brioni, Jil Sander, Roberto Cavalli, Balenciaga and Marni. Some designers moved on directly to other brands (Maria Chiuri Grazi left Valentino for Dior, for example) and others were ousted (Alber Elbaz, from Lanvin).
Most notoriously, when Raf Simons left Dior in 2015, he shared telling insight about the state of the fashion industry, telling Interview magazine’s Cathy Horyn that a crushing cycle of consistent collections sacrificed time for creative design.
The churning pace of the fashion industry has put more pressure on designers to create more collections at a faster rate. They’re also given less time to prove themselves as successes for a brand.
“With designers, it always eventually turns into a financial conversation,” said Rony Zeidan, CEO of luxury agency RO NY. “Corporate owners are looking at the bottom line, and then you have these big-name designers who are feeling fatigue and burnout and are probably becoming harder to handle. They’re not streamlined.”
High-profile exits, particularly when a brand has performed strongly under a creative director, can rock a fashion house’s stability. Between 2012 and 2015, Yves Saint Laurent sales tripled under the lead of creative director Hedi Slimane; when Slimane’s departure was announced last year, parent company Kering’s shares fell by 2 percent. Over the course of 2016, Yves Saint Laurent’s revenue growth slowed under new creative director Anthony Vaccarello: Kering posted a year-over-year revenue increase of 26 percent (to $337 million) in the first quarter of the year and a year-over-year revenue increase of 22 percent (to $348 million) in the second quarter, after Vaccarello’s appointment.
Particularly sour exits can send a brand spiraling. Lanvin, after the 2014 exit of Alber Elbaz, has seen sales suffer and posted losses of $11 million in 2016, with revenue below $200 million, down from $250 million two years prior. The brand is now in talks to be acquired by Qatari, which owns Balmain and Valentino.
“Lanvin is going to suffer big time. Alber was a genius director, and he perfected the brand’s DNA,” said Zeidan. “There’s a certain brand DNA that needs to remain true under different creative directors, but sometimes they hit the reset button and everything changes, which can really go either way.”
The strength of a creative director can also create a halo effect around a struggling brand. Gucci, which had lost the influence of its Tom Ford era under the direction of former creative director Frida Giannini, was blamed in part for an overall 5 percent revenue slip at parent Kering. Alessandro Michele, who was leading handbags, the one sector performing well at the time, was appointed creative director in January 2015. Since then, the brand has been a rare success story during a tumultuous period for luxury fashion, breaking $1 billion in sales in the first half of 2016.
As for the future of Givenchy, Tisci’s moving on after 12 years signals a fresh start for the brand.
“I’m not sure this is really bad news,” said Luca Solca, managing director of Exane BNP Paribas. “Givenchy had been strong in the past few years, but has been weaker more recently. Maybe this is a chance to turn the page and inject fresh energy and ideas into the business.”