Desigual Turns to Jean-Paul Goude for a Makeover

He has all the aesthetic credibility Desigual lacks, except in one area: clothes. And though he is not officially being asked to design (his remit is “visual communications,” though it’s a loosey-goosey definition), his appointment does raise some questions: Which comes first, the image or the products? And can the two actually be separated?

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Jean-Paul Goude, the new artistic director at Desigual, was allowed to create his own looks: ones that involve bigger volumes on the bottom, and exacting, architectural tops.

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Jean Paul Goude

It’s an issue not just at the heart of this experiment, but also of the industry more broadly, as distinctions among designer, artistic director and creative director become fuzzy, and the drive for social media buzz seems to be, rightly or wrongly, the single greatest imperative behind many creative decisions.

Consider that such respected names as Alber Elbaz, Peter Copping, Stefano Pilati, Marco Zanini, Bouchra Jarrar and Riccardo Tisci are all out of full-time jobs, and hundreds of new designers flood the market every spring from schools such as Central Saint Martins and Parsons.

And consider the fact that Mr. Goude’s appointment follows the naming of Rihanna as creative director of Puma (complete with her own line, Fenty Puma); the appointment of Isabella Burley, editor of the British magazine Dazed & Confused, as “editor in residence” of Helmut Lang last March; and that of Justin O’Shea, a former buying director of MyTheresa.com, as creative director of Brioni in 2016.

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A sketch for a Desigual design by Mr. Goude.

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Jean-Paul Goude

As it turned out, Mr. O’Shea lasted less than six months at that job (his decision to use Metallica as a face of the brand James Bond built did not go over well with the old consumer base). Which could be a warning sign. There is another, growing school of thought that says the best way to revive a brand is to hire talented designers and give them power over all consumer-touching decisions. See: Gucci, Saint Laurent and Loewe.

Mr. Goude, who resembles a grizzled pixie and has a tendency to pair seersucker jackets with nipped-in waists with black T-shirts, drawstring harem pants and white bucks, is well aware of the risks….

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