Are Fashion Directors Really Becoming Obsolete?

March 6, 2009 • Shopping


Julie Gilhart, Barney's New York fashion director

according to the New York Times, this fact seems to be true. Fashion directors,
such as Michael Fink of Saks Fifth Avenue and LaVelle Olexa of Lord and Taylor
once considered their jobs to be indestructible. Unfortunately, they were both
seen packing up their desks last month. It seems with the multitude of how-to
fashion magazines and reality television programs, consumers don't need to be
told what is trendy or how to wear a certain garment. Viewers of shows such as
Project Runway have become so involved they now feel like the fashion expert.

So what do retailers even need those fashion directors
for anyway? Up until recently, the answer to that question was pretty much
everything. Julie Gilhart, fashion director of Barney's New York, seems to do
it all in order to create the retailer's image. Former Bergdorf Goodman Director of Menswear Robert Burke explains a good director "had the idea, sourced it,
manufactured it, figured out how to promote it, how to extend its life."
From influencing the look of the store's window displays, floor layout and
advertising to making the buying decisions and scouting up-and-coming trends
and designers, Gilhart really does it all. If other high end retailers are
eliminating this position, does Barney's really need one too? As for Michael
Fink, his job duties have already been divided among six different Saks
Ms. Gilhart should be a little


Kal Ruttenstein (left) with Marc Jacobs in 2004; Donna Karen (left) with mentor Dawn Mellow, a retail consultant and former director at Bergdorf Goodman

Many of these directors have given a boost to big name designers, such as Donna Karen and Zac Posen. Former fashion director Kal Ruttenstein was a major supporter of Marc Jacobs' early work. He pushed for the stores to buy brands he thought would skyrocket into success.
If anything, these retailers should thank their lucky stars for having fashion directors on board. If the retailers are carrying these designer labels and succeeding because of it, doesn't the credit go to the fashion director? Ironic, huh.

With the economy in its current situation, retailers
don't seem to care as much about their store's image and are relying more on
making a profit. That's understandable, especially since Saks recently
announced they lost $99 million in the fourth quarter. Let's hope the country's
current state of crap turns around soon and we can all go back to envying the
Prada bags in center store.

-Allison Merzel

Source & Photos: WWD & NYMag

See the Top Ten Summer 2016 Trends for Women Over 40

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply