By VANESSA FRIEDMAN
There’s a new regime in British fashion, and it could have far-reaching implications for the future — because it involves the people who will shape it.
Yesterday’s announcement by Central Saint Martins that Fabio Piras would take Louise Wilson’s place as the fashion school’s course director following Ms. Wilson’s unexpected death comes just weeks after the Royal College of Art announced that Zowie Broach would become its head of fashion following Wendy Dagworthy’s retirement.
Why, you say, should anyone who does not live in the U.K. or want to go to a fashion college care?
Together, the two appointments will shape the curricula of what are arguably two of the most important fashion schools in the world (possibly the two most important; certainly the two most famous), which is to say: They will shape the next wave of designers.
After all, simply consider the last wave of designers fostered by either Ms. Wilson (who became course head of CSM in 1992, though she spent a two-year sabbatical at Donna Karan in the late ‘90s) or Ms. Dagworthy (who joined the RCA in 1998): Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Phoebe Philo, Stella McCartney, Riccardo Tisci, Christopher Bailey, Christopher Kane. In others words, many of the most influential names of the turn of the millennium.
Meanwhile, the amount of buzz currently surrounding Y.B.D.s, a.k.a. young British designers, makes this an especially key moment for the change in leadership as the big groups such as Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (which recently bought majority stakes in Y.B.D.s Jonathan Anderson and Nicholas Kirkwood), and Kering (which bought a majority stake in Christopher Kane) circle the runways.
What to expect?
Mr. Piras, a former designer who showed his own label at London Fashion Week from 1994 to 2000, where he was known for his architectural approach to clothing, is an insider choice: He is both a graduate of CSM and worked closely with Ms. Wilson after closing his own brand; he had been acting course director since her death earlier this year. A seemingly less flamboyant and charismatic figure, he represents continuity.
Ms. Broach, however, is an external choice, and is more surprising. She is the co-founder of the British label Boudicca, known for both its exacting cuts and conceptual underpinnings — and the fact that for the first five years of its existence it did not make clothes to sell — and which showed at London Fashion Week and during the Paris couture season. She also has a varied academic background, having taught at Parsons, SAIC in Chicago, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, and served as designer in residence at London College of Fashion from 2009 to 2011.
Ms. Broach stands out both for her personal style, which always struck me as Katharine Hepburn-meets-Carole Lombard, and her famous philosophical diatribes, which in our past discussions have linked the Spanish artist Joan Fontcuberta, Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” “The Little Match Girl” and clothes. ....more