Talented creative directors are the life’s blood of haute couture houses, controlling success for multi-million dollar global businesses with recognizably influential logos like Vuitton, Gucci, Fendi and Dior — to name a few.
Superstars such as John Galliano enjoyed a high-flying lifestyle and perks at a billion+ brand like Dior. His salary was estimated at roughly $1.3 million, bonus $900k depending on a percentage of sales, and another $100,000 as grooming-clothing allowance. He received another $2.6 million salary at Galliano, his own signature brand, and another $100,000 clothing allowance. In a high growth year, he could make up to $5 million.
So, why such designer turnaround these days? The pace for preeminent creative directors is highly stressful and literally killing, as evidenced by Alexander McQueen’s tragic suicide in 2010, and — no matter the generous perks — the occupational hazard being addiction to drugs or alcohol, some of which was demonstrated by Galliano’s publicly drunken, anti-Semitic flameout.
After a stellar 15-year tenure at venerable haute couture icon Balenciaga, in 2013 Nicolas Ghesquière jumped from luxury ship the Gucci Group to the competition, LVMH, replacing Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton in a plummy, high profile job. Jacobs’ 16-year run was a huge success at LVMH, marred only by a couple of drug rehabs as he built the very first couture ready-to-wear brand for the luxury luggage and handbag company. By 2013, Marc Jacobs left, and was expected to cash in, go public, and further develop his own signature brand. But he hasn’t done it yet.
In 2012, Balenciaga’s successor for Ghesquière was young American sportswear designer, Alexander Wang. Wang left in 2015, following a massive, Balenciaga promotion with low-priced, mass-market retail monolith H&M, to pursue development of his now well-known name brand.
Creative directors are not born temperamental prima donnas. Enticements of high profiles with salaries to match and fabulous perks are obviously so alluring as to diminish the fear of flameout. To quote playwright Maxwell Anderson, “what price glory?”
To learn more about the rarified world of fashion, check these out on Amazon:
Dana Thomas’s “Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano,” and “Champagne Supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen and the ’90s Renegades Who Remade Fashion” by Maureen Callahan.
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