Ungaro: Esteban Cortazar revisited

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Yesterday’s post on Esteban Cortazar’s appointment at Ungaro garnered quite the response from all sides of the issue. Not only was our inbox quickly filled with emails, several comments also came through, including one that could be from someone connected to Ungaro, accusing Cathy Horyn of censorship. Fashion Inc also posted a response on her blog in defense of Mr. Moufarrige, given his reasonably short tenure at Ungaro and the fact that he actually didn’t hire 3 previous designers at Ungaro (though this article seems to suggest that he was already very much in the picture when Dundas was hired at the end of 2005).

We normally don’t respond to emails, comments and other blogs directly in a new post, preferring instead to engage with readers one-on-one or via the comments function, but given the volume of responses today, we’re happy to engage in the dialogue to address three key questions that have come in throughout the day:

  • Why did so many designers turn down such a plum post?
  • Does Cathy Horyn have the right to comment on designer appointments?
  • Shouldn’t we give Esteban Cortazar a chance?

Why did so many designers turn down such a plum post?
One well-known fashion insider sent a message saying that they were in complete agreement with Cathy Horyn’s apparent view that this was another poor choice by Ungaro, and wondered why Marios Schwab turned down the job. Anjo asked the same question in her comment, wondering what it is about Moufarrige’s management style that is so off-putting.

The answer to this question may be found in another email we received today. A regular BoF reader wrote in to say that Mr. Moufarrige is "possibly the most unpleasant man I’ve ever come across in the Industry". This is consistent with the comments that have been spreading throughout the fashion community over the past 6 months. Nobody wants to work with difficult people — and this is not particular to the fashion industry.

However, the negative comments about Moufarrige are not conclusive, especially given that he has a strong track-record at some of Richemont’s premier brands, including Chloé, Dunhill and Mont Blanc and has had a hand in the renaissance of Goyard. It’s worth adding that while Moufarrige may not have hired all of the designers that have come and gone from Ungaro, this constant shuffling has nonetheless confused the brand and potentially made the role much less attractive than it 0nce was.

Does Cathy Horyn have the right to comment on designer appointments and does she censor her blog?
BoF received a strongly-worded comment artefact212 (potentially linked to the Ungaro team?), criticising us for quoting Cathy Horyn in our post, saying:

In our opinion, Cathy Horyn would not of [sic] been the best choice to quote from regarding the selection of Mr. Esteban Cortazar as head designer for Ungaro. Ms. Horyn is strictly a fashion critic for The New York Times and should reserve her personal opinions and report only on the collection once it has been presented. We have found with [sic] Ms. Horyn to be narrow minded and is [sic] selective with her criticism. We are appalled that The New York Times promotes censorship in respect to commenting on Cathy Horyn’s blog. Unfortunately, Ms. Horyn herself cannot accept criticism and if you challenge her you are either deleted or censored from her blog…Comments are only posted if you praise her baking or agree with her. We challenge Ms. Horyn and The New York Times to review their position and allow everyone to participate in her forum without being censored. We believe that everyones [sic] opinion matters in this business of fashion.

We are grateful for the comment, but respectfully disagree with the argument.  First, fashion critics in this day and age don’t just comment on hemlines and silhouettes, they comment on the entire fashion eco-system. Critics such as Suzy Menkes, Vanessa Friedman and Cathy Horyn all regularly comment on the industry as a whole, and certainly Horyn is entitled to state her opinion on what she thinks about the selection of a designer for a fashion house.  Second, our post was not only about Horyn’s comments, but about the broader discussion about the appointment on the blog and in fashion community at large.

As for censorship of On The Runway, we can’t verify whether the accusations placed on Ms. Horyn are true or not, but we have never had an issue with any of our own comments being removed. We found a comment from artefact212 on this post from Horyn’s blog and regardless, are happy to have artefact212 as part of the BoF community.

Shouldn’t we give Esteban Cortazar a chance?
Lauren from Fashion Inc encourages everyone to give Cortazar a chance (even at 23, he does have 5 years of experience, he has yet to send out his first collection, Moufarrige is a new CEO, etc) which is all fine and well. Everyone will be watching come March and as Anjo says in her comment, perhaps he will send out a stunner. So, shouldn’t we just wait and see, before passing judgment?

Estabancortazar_photo_2 Yes, absolutely Cortazar deserves a chance.  In fact, our post said that we are hoping he will succeed.  But, our main point was that a successful fashion business does not only come down to a strong, critically acclaimed collection (as Olivier Theyskens proved at Rochas). Success really boils down to a combination of a strong creative talent matched with a formidable business manager and a brand with a strong DNA.

Given the current situation at Ungaro, all three of these elements are in question. We won’t have a real verdict on the collection itself until consumers have their say and either buy into the brand or not when Cortazar’s first collection in delivered into stores in about a year from now. A view on the longer-term chances for success for the Cortazar-Moufarrige duo at Ungaro may be far beyond that.

Thank you to everyone for your views on the issue…we are enjoying the ongoing debate.

Moufarrige photo courtsy of iloubnan.info

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6 comments

  1. Thank you for posting our comment. We look forward in being a part of The Business of Fashion community. We would like to clarify that we are not associated with Ungaro. Although, we do have great respect for Mr. Mouffarige much in the same manner as Mr. Bernard Arnault and Mr. Pierre Berge.

    artefact212 from Gloversville, NY, United States
  2. I’m not quite familiar with the Ungaro brand, but whatever the case may be, hiring a new young designer for the brand could be risky, but fashion is about taking risks. Sometimes a fresh new perspective that hasn’t been influenced by others may be just what the brand needs. What kind of success do people expect though? This can apply to any brand, but I’d rather have a brand that builds on trust over time. A moderately successful debut followed by consistent creative collections (while still improving) is a strategy I could see working. Overnight success yields a lot of pressure from the get go and I think Mr. Cortazar has enough pressure as it is. Only time will determine how successful this move will be. I’m curious to see how this will turn out. As for opinions, well everyone has opinions, or else we wouldn’t be having any discussions!

  3. @Dahlia, This is exactly our point. Opinions do matter. Everyone’s opinion. It’s censorship that is not acceptable.

    artefact212 from Gloversville, NY, United States
  4. I agree! We should most definitely give Cortazar a chance. Wasn’t Yves Saint-Laurent given the opportunity to head Dior at 22? My point being, age should not be an issue. I sincerely hope Cortazar proves his critics wrong….

  5. Yes, but even when Yves Saint-Laurent was young he was showing in his designs a sophistication beyond his years. On the other hand Cortazar’s recurring aesthetic theme can only be described as “Bombshell Mamacita”.

    Aller Farfalle from New York, NY, United States
  6. Horyn was right again………cortazar has no clue in design and wants to be in the fashion world no matter the stakes……what is he doing in NY for Gods Sake he should be hiding somewhere for his disastrous
    performance that Lohas is believed to do better….Yikes!

    RACHEL from Hollywood, FL, United States