Tough to let go for 70-something fashion designers
By Astrid Wendlandt and Marie-Louise Gumuchian
PARIS/MILAN (Reuters) - Italian designer Giorgio Armani, who turned 75 in July, may be the pride of Italian fashion and a godfather of the industry but he is not immortal.
After suffering a bout of hepatitis, Armani says he is back in action but he looks thinner and frailer than before in spite of his permanent tan, raising the question ever more urgently of who will succeed him.
Armani will not divulge who could possibly take up the reins of his empire worth $2.4 billion in annual sales, only saying he is grooming a chosen few. Insiders predict he will keep everybody guessing until the last minute.
But if mystery around his succession is understandable for commercial reasons, it is also a powerful reminder of how taxing and emotional it is to replace the founder and creative soul of a fashion house, particularly while he is still alive.
"Succession is an emotionally charged thing, especially when you talk about people like Armani who own the business," Burberry's Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey told Reuters last month.
The history of fashion is littered with examples of traumatic experiences and designers ousted after a short-lived attempt at filling the founder's shoes.
Tom Ford openly admitted Yves Saint Laurent made his life a misery when he took over as chief designer of the French fashion house in 1999. The founder of the fashion house was not supportive Ford's work and complained he did not respect the brand's heritage.
Today, the website of the Yves Saint Laurent maison does not even mention Ford in its corporate history section even though he worked there for four years. Continued...