Giles Deacon: From Daks to?

Vanessa Friedman has written an insightful article on the career of Giles Deacon, one of London’s most celebrated emerging designers — though, the ‘emerging’ title can’t be his for much longer, especially now that he has been appointed Creative Director of the British fashion house, DAKS.

As I suggested in a previous post, I still wonder whether Giles’ destiny is actually to become Creative Director for a Parisian fashion house of international renown. (Suzy Menkes asserted the same point this week in her glowing review of Giles show yesterday in the IHT). It would not be hard to fathom that DAKS is yet another stepping stone in a career that has seen Giles go from Bottega Veneta to Gucci and finally to his own label. If one were looking for a case study on how to carefully build a platform for success in the fashion industry, Giles’ story is a good one. Before he set up his own label, he trained with the best at St Martins and then went on to work with the best, including a stint with Tom Ford at Gucci where he must have learned a great deal from Ford, one of the masters of luxury brand management. Now, with 6 seasons of his own label under his belt and his widespread recognition as a creative force to be reckoned with, Giles has also proved he has the creative wings to soar with the biggest names in the industry. But, before he can do that, he needs to prove that his designs have the commercial muscle to support an international fashion brand, and hence the new role with Daks.

In her article, Friedman makes much of the fact that it would have been a dealbreaker for Giles if DAKS required him to shut down his label in order to focus on their line full-time. In fact, she says, DAKS encouraged Giles to keep his own label, as a furtive playground in which he could explore his vast creative interests, while keeping to a more commercial formula for DAKS. I would have recommended that DAKS think about going even further by investing directly in Mr. Deacon’s label to share further in the benefits of the increased attention that Giles will surely earn as a result of the DAKS’ substantial investment in rejuventating the brand. Also, by tying Giles’ own label’s future to their cash and operational support, they may have at least been able to try to hold on to him for longer than his 2 year contract, by offering more support for his business in the future.

What will DAKS do in 2 years if Giles leaves, once DAKS have found some of that creative momentum they are looking for from Giles? What’s to keep him from going off and designing for a big fashion house in Paris when they come knocking (and come knocking they will — they already are). Even then, Giles may not have been open to taking any investment from DAKS because his plans may always have been to leave. Also, why give away any equity in his business when the consultancy fee may be enough to keep his business running? On the other hand, his business could surely use some professional management and operational support to grow more quickly and deliver what the buyers are expecting, when they are expecting it — and DAKS could have brought this to the table. Now Giles will need to find someone else to help him with that if he is to truly monetise the elaborate groundwork he has put into place (either knowingly or organically) to get him where he is today. He has little room for error.