Here at Glam Observer together with giving you career advice to get a job in fashion, we explain and break down each role in the fashion industry; in this article we will cover the role of the Creative Director in fashion. We will be exploring everything from the skills you need to be in the role, what you need to study, the main responsibilities of the job, how to become one and people to admire currently smashing the role.
So, what is a Creative Director? The role of a creative director has changed drastically in the past decade, becoming more complex, it no longer begins and ends with solely designing collections anymore. As one of the highest creative positions in a fashion house, the creative director formulates and inspires the design team an overarching concept for the collections, think of the creative director as the constructor of an orchestra. The creative director becomes synonymous with the fashion house or brand, meaning they are entrusted with a lot of commitment and accountability, as the sole vision of the brand as a whole is placed in their hands. It is far more than overseeing designs and garment construction, they are responsible for executing and developing the vision for the whole brand; from the brand values and mission to their campaigns, all the creative concepts are in their hands.
So, what skills do you need to enthrall yourself into such a diverse role? Having a compelling and innovative vision for the brand is the main skill you need as a creative director. It is important to understand the fashion houses values and heritage and distinguish the creative vision you can bring to the brand. The director does not need to be the most incredible designer in the room, he has to be the best one at emulating and communicating his vision to the team around him. You need to be able to tell the story of the brand and carefully curate where you want to take the brand; your creative vision. It is not just being a skilled designer, but envisioning the creative direction of the brand as one. Having a complete vision of the brand and thoroughly understanding the mission of your fashion house is a significant skill.
The second most important skill is deep within your personality and identity. You have to be driven! Not just anybody can handle the pressure and responsibility that comes with this amount of leadership and supremacy. You have to be a driven designer who truly wants this remarkable position. There are some other key skills and knowledge you will need including; staying ahead of the trends and retaining exceptional knowledge of garment construction and fashion culture. You will also need a strong experience of garment development; from initial sketches to the runway. It is important you can inspire a creative team and offer them excellent leadership for the future of the fashion house.
You may be thinking, but what do I need to study? What degree do I need? Well, this is the good news, you don’t need to have studied fashion! Recruiters actually look outside of the fashion industry for these roles to gain fresh perspectives on the fashion house. It is without saying that experience within the industry is crucial, however brands actually like it when you have a different background of education, something different to bring to the vision. Take a look at Virgil Abloh, the creative genius who left an impact on the fashion world forever, he studied Engineering and Architecture. The visionary expert of his time; Karl Lagerfeld who ran luxury, iconic fashion houses; Fendi and Chanel for over 50 years, studied Art History at University, but gained crucial experience interning. So, do you still think you need a fashion degree to get the highest role in the industry?
Oliver Rousteing recalled to Vogue France when he got appointed at Balmain: “I felt afraid. Afraid of not being the perfect designer, above all. When I say ‘perfect’ I mean technically: being able to design a well-cut jacket, a good pair of heels. To tell you the truth, fashion schools don’t teach you to become an artistic director, but a good designer. When I got the role, I knew I had to make collections and beautiful shows, but I didn’t realise what the fashion world was really like. It was when I walked out of my first show in September 2011, into the public applause that I realized that I was not just a designer, but an artist director who had to have a more global vision of fashion. I had also become a public person who would have to face criticism and judgement”. The intense role requires self-devotion, it’s easy to forget everyone starts at the bottom and feels clueless at times, even the iconic Oliver Rousteing.
What does such a high role entail? The creative vision no longer stops at designing collections, but more so developing and executing an entire vision of the brand, the role has evolved to include social media, campaigns, strategy and a global brand vision. The creative director is tasked with honouring the heritage of the fashion house while introducing new, innovative ideas to keep the brand relevant and in the right direction. Leading a team of designers who propose new ideas, it is the directors job to ensure these proposals and concepts match the overarching brand image and vision. This means that Creative directors have the major responsibility of all final garments being designed under their direction. They create and maintain a consistent vision of the fashion house by overseeing everything to ensure it aligns with the brand completely, even down to the small details from model casting to mission statements. Due to a more global consumer with rising new communication platforms in the last decade, modern creative directors have to think about everything the fashion house stands for including social media strategy and brand collaborations, all while keeping the core vision and heritage at the front of their mind. They are also responsible for overseeing each fashion show including each detail from casting to location.
The creative directors have always been seen as part of the brands image, the director and fashion house go hand in hand, as they must resonate with the brands audience as one. The directors with the most impact become inseparable from the fashion house in the audience’s mind, for example when you think Chanel you think Karl, when you think Versace you think Donatella. These designers became not only directors but icons of the industry with their unique visions that catapulted their brand. People become entranced by the director. Throughout our Inside the Fashion Industry course in module four we cover when the status of designers shifted from dress-makers to celebrities, to learn even more on what this means as the director you can look into the course today.
So how do you get started in such a role? You naturally work your way up, beginning in a designer role, this might even be as a designer intern or junior designer, working your way up the creative ladder. Showing devotion and passion for the role will always go a long way. Olivier Rousteing was just 24 when becoming the creative director of Balmain, making him the youngest director in the fashion capital; Paris since Yves Saint Laurent. Rousteing began his career as a designer, quickly climbing his way up to head of the brand’s womenswear division. He was then hired by Balmain as a womenswear designer working very closely to the then creative director, who almost became a mentor to him, leading to Rousteing being appointed the role when he stepped down. Raf Simons (Current director of Prada) took a very different route, beginning his career with his own brand and collection, which be jumped between from also teaching head at an arts university, he was the first appointed creative director at Jil Sander, leading him to also be the creative lead at Dior, Calvin Klein and Prada.
Here is a list of some of the most inspiration creative directors to follow:
Olivier Rousteing: @olivier_rousteing
Raf Simons: @rafsimons
Anthony Vaccarello: @anthonyvaccarello
Nicolas Ghesquiére: @nicolasghesquiere
Kim Jones: @mrkimjones
Alessandro Michele: @alessandro_michele
Maria Grazia Chiuri: @mariagraziachiuri
Sandra Choi: @sandrachoiofficial
Demna Gvasalia: @demnagvasalia
Mathew Williams: @matthewmwilliams
Donatella Versace: @donatella_versace
Simon Porte Jacquemus: @simon_porte_jacquemus
Matthieu Blazy: @matthieu_blazy
Why not aim for one of the highest creative role in a fashion house? Someone has to do it and that someone could just be you…
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