NEW YORK, United States — Jonathan Saunders, the Scottish fashion designer who shuttered his London-based label in December 2015, is joining Diane Von Furstenberg as chief creative officer, effective immediately. Saunders will report to chief executive Paolo Riva and will be responsible for the overall creative direction of the brand.
“Jonathan's extraordinary passion for colours and prints, his effortless designs, and his desire to make women feel beautiful make him the perfect creative force to lead DVF into the future,” Diane von Furstenberg, the company’s founder and chairwoman, said in a statement. “I could not have found a cooler, more intelligent designer and I cannot wait to watch him shine as our chief creative officer.”
To be sure, Saunders — who launched his namesake brand in 2003, and has long been a favourite with critics, particularly in the United Kingdom — will bring a fresh perspective to the DVF studio. Like many contemporary brands with a significant wholesale presence, it has struggled over the past few years to re-establish its place in the new market. The announcement comes just months after rumours swirled that Saunders was first in line to replace Raf Simons at Christian Dior.
Von Furstenberg first came into prominence in the 1970s, when she introduced her now-iconic jersey wrap dress. After years of ups and downs — including a successful stint on home shopping channel QVC — the collection was relaunched in 1997, and by 2015 was generating an estimated $500 million in annual revenue. But as new brands flood the contemporary market and direct-to-consumer labels and fast-fashion retailers offer similar product for a lower price, companies like DvF must find new ways to compete. "For the past year, I have rebuilt our senior leadership around a new strategy," Riva said. "Now is absolutely the right time to bring in a creative force to help execute this vision and provide strong creative direction."
Von Furstenberg, who has long employed top designers to handle the day-to-day creative direction of the label — Michael Herz, who is now leaving the company, joined as artistic director in 2014 — is not retiring. However, Saunders' title suggests that he will be responsible for more than his predecessors. The appointment of Saunders, who will be based in New York, will allow von Furstenberg to her to spend more time pursuing philanthropy and mentorship, according to the company. (She also chairs the board of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.)
For Saunders, the role equals a fresh start. "The spirit with which this brand was founded is incredibly relevant today. I am thrilled to be part of its next chapter,” her said. “Diane has a unique ability to deeply connect with women and I am excited to be working with Paolo on the future of the brand."
Added Riva, “Jonathan is an incredibly talented designer who is able to express his creative vision with great clarity. He will evolve the identity of DVF and passionately embrace our mission of putting women at the centre of everything we do. I look forward to this partnership with him."
Now that Saunders is installed at DVF and the announcement that Simons will join Calvin Klein is expected in the coming months, it’s becoming more clear that American brands are looking to European talent to inject something new into the country’s fashion landscape.