Are accessory designers finally getting the recognition they deserve?

Following Louis Vuitton’s announcement last summer that Darren Spaziani was joining the house as accessories designer, now Emilio Pucci is revealing their own “get”: Elena Ghisellini, aka the woman behind Givenchy’s recent stream of It bags. She’ll work with creative director Peter Dundas at Pucci. So far, so normal: both are LVMH brands, and this is keeping it in the family. So why do we care?

Lots of reasons!

After all, we all know accessories – which is to say, bags – are the golden brick upon which so many luxury brands’ profits are built, and it is an open secret that every house has its own accessory team, with leader.

However, traditionally those teams-and-leaders have been largely nameless and unrecognised; the “creative director” given the credit for all such product successes. At Louis Vuitton, for example, while Nicholas Knightly, aka leather goods design director, created many bags with former artistic director Marc Jacobs, most non-fashion insiders never heard his name. Mr Jacobs largely received the public credit.

This is one of the reasons why, when accessory designers such as Gucci’s creative director Frida Giannini, or Valentino’s creative directors Maria Grazia Chiurri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, got elevated to the top spots, everyone was so surprised: the designers had been labouring in the shadows, and seemed to come out of nowhere.

Well, not any more. Now they are being named and celebrated.

Part of this probably has to do with the general move towards transparency among companies, and giving credit where credit is due, which is a good thing (and fully in line with what seems to be a softer, gentler image for LVMH).

Part of it may have to do with sharing some of the risk among creative directors, thus taking some of the pressure off the current head of design, and allowing them to admit what everyone knows, which is that they can’t possibly hands-on design every product in every multi-line global behemoth brand.

And part of it, I think, has to do with the shifting balance of power I’ve been noting in favour of designers. Accessory designers are increasingly valuable, and they can demand some recognition. It’s kind of like the fashion equivalent of the free-agent thing in sports.

To that point, and also worth noting: Ms Ghisellini has an eponymous brand, which she will continue to design.

Indeed, I expect we will see more of this. I expect being a talented accessory designer is not a bad thing to be right now. Let the next luxury personnel arms race begin.

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