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Alexander McQueen -- the next chapter and other designers on the move

May 27, 2010 | 12:13 pm

Burton A flurry of hirings and firings in the fashion industry this week, most notably at Alexander McQueen, where Sarah Burton has been appointed creative director. Burton is a longtime colleague of McQueen's, who began working with him in 1996. She has been the head of women's wear design since 2000. 

Jonathan Akeroyd, president and CEO of Alexander McQueen, said in a statement: “We are delighted that Sarah has agreed to take on the role of creative director. Having worked alongside Lee McQueen for more than 14 years, she has a deep understanding of his vision, which will allow the company to stay true to its core values. Sarah is extremely talented and under her creative leadership we are ready to enter a new phase in the brands history.“

Robert Polet, president and CEO of Gucci Group, added: “As a business we remain absolutely
committed to the Alexander McQueen company, which has proven to have strong customer loyalty
and has shown to be a resilient brand in the aftermath of the tragic loss of its founder. Sarah has real talent, a close understanding of the brand, and the vision necessary to take it forward. We will be giving full support to Sarah and the team in the coming years"

Burton was born in Manchester and educated at Central Saint Martins. Gucci Group has a substantial commitment to the McQueen brand, which has five stand-alone boutiques around the world and hundreds of retail accounts, so there was no chance that it was going to be shut down. Several names were bandied about as possible replacements for McQueen, including Gareth Pugh, who has a similar dark vision to the late designer's. But replacing one big personality with another was probably not the right thing to do straight off. While no one will be able to approach McQueen's genius, Burton seems like the logical person to try. 

In other news, British designer Giles Deacon is taking the reins at Ungaro, God bless him, after the debacle that was Lindsay Lohan as artistic director. (Head designer Estrella Archs also moved on earlier this year.) I like Deacon's zany sensibility -- overgrown chunky mufflers, "Who Killed Bambi" prints, and grandma nylon knee-highs are just a few memorable runway looks from his recent namesake collections. Hopefully, he can inject some cool into Ungaro too. I can't wait to see what he does with a pink ruffle.

At Hermes, Jean Paul Gaultier is out. I'm ambivalent on this one. His Hermes runway collections were always crowd-pleasers, with models volleying tennis balls or riding motorcycles down the runway. Still, the clothes always seemed like window dressing for new Birkin bags. Lacoste designer Christophe Lemaire will be taking over. Hermes' first-quarter sales rose nearly 20%, but ready-to-wear is just a fraction of the business for the leathergoods firm. With Lemaire's experience in sportswear, he should help boost that side of things, creating more accessible and younger clothes. A pique shirt with an embroidered "H" perhaps?

And finally, the great migration to the middle continues. Olivier Theyskens of Nina Ricci fame will be designing a collection for contemporary clothing label Theory. While I have a hard time imagining how Theyskens' wild aesthetic (you'll remember those stilt-like, heel-less glam-rock booties from his last Ricci collection) will jibe with a line known for crisp and modern, office-appropriate separates. But I can't wait to find out.

-- Booth Moore

Photo: Sarah Burton, the new creative director of Alexander McQueen. Credit: Courtesy of Gucci Group.