– By Khahlil Louisy
Since his appointment as Chief Creative Officer of Diane Von Furstenberg in 2016, Scottish designer, Jonathan Saunders, has presented a new vision for the DVF woman, while remaining true to the heritage of the brand. I chatted with the designer on his plans for the house of DVF and the changes the fashion industry is currently undergoing.
You’ve been experimenting with how you present your collections during fashion week, opting for presentations or a hybrid of what I’ll call a mini-runway-presentation-mix. Do you think that the current system of showing clothes isn’t working, or is there another element you’re exploring? I’m also curious about the approach to the consumer and whether direct-to-consumer is part of the mix.
As long as you have wholesale in your business, there’s still an element of the wholesale cycle of buying and making to order and delivery. So what you get into is a period of time where you have to do a bit of both – the old way of doing things and a new way of doing things. And I think that what I’m trying to do and what we’re trying to do as a company, is increase the ways in which we’re breaking things and changing the cycle. So, who’s to say that we wouldn’t do a fashion show out of cycle, direct to the consumer, including journalists, including long-lead press, including all the traditional ways of communicating, but also bringing in the actual consumer. It doesn’t have to be more commercial, or a trunk show, it can be something very creative, and very inspiring, and telling the story of what the brand is about and stands for. I think the timing of it all can change, because you show a collection during fashion week, it’s all over Instagram, the clothes gets to the store four months later, but all the noise around it has changed. It’s hard to know when to do it and how to do it, and that’s what we’re all trying to figure out.
Have you had to adjust your approach to design and marketing to the consumer, now that you’re here in the U.S. at DVF, as opposed to your approach in the UK and European markets?
Well all the brands I’ve worked for have always been global brands. My own brand was global, Alexander McQueen, Gucci, were all global. I think the best brands in particular, always have a high percentage of American consumers. And so for me, it was really interesting to learn about what actually resonates with customers in America, because this is the home of the contemporary brand. When you’re challenging what contemporary brands are, then you need to know about it. So that to me has been the most relevant way I’m learning, since I came to DVF.
The industry is undergoing major changes, with many of the established players leaving, or being replaced by a younger generation, including editors, designers, and other creatives. Do you find yourself having to communicate differently with the new group and what about the so-called, influencers, in the digital space?
In many ways, we’ve changed our marketing strategies to include social media, because I think it’s vital. People relate to their peers and like the conversations, rather than the elitism of celebrity, or high-brow journalists telling them exactly what to do. However, I still believe in journalism and having the collections critiqued, but I also believe in the democracy of opening up the assessment of what is successful or not, to a much more broad, younger, and agile demographic.
Do you think it’s easier to get into the fashion industry now, whether as a designer or editor, or any other creative, who can make it up the ranks? The Fashion industry isn’t exactly known for it’s accessibility. How should someone with design aspirations approach the industry now?
I think just get into the industry. Maybe not through design, start with maybe communications. But I think being more open has already happened. When you look at brands like Vetements, who started doing their own thing and have even taken themselves off the fashion calendar. They communicate their new products through Instagram and promote their new products through their wholesale partners and through their friends – direct to the consumer and it doesn’t have to be cheesy.
I’m curious about what we will be seeing from you and DVF in the coming seasons, both in terms of collections and the formats through which you show.
We’re changing the way we present collections, definitely, next year. We’re also going to break up collections so that they’re more like individual capsules, creative ideas which can be expressed, and definitely playing around with fashion shows. And we’re going to try to include the consumer much more and how we communicate. It’s all a work in progress, but watch this space.