NEW YORK, United States — Jonathan Saunders has resigned as chief creative officer of DVF. Saunders first joined the business in May 2016 and was tasked with revamping the brand across all of its incarnations, from corporate identity to product to store design to marketing.
“I am grateful for Diane’s support and for the opportunity of guiding this iconic brand. I am so proud of everything we have accomplished in the past 18 months. I thank the incredible team for their dedication and support, and will continue to be a friend and admirer of the brand,” said Saunders in a statement.
“I am so thankful for Jonathan’s beautiful work and the effort and dedication he has put into DVF in the last 18 months. He will leave an important and lasting heritage to the brand,” said Diane Von Furstenberg. The news follow reports that Furstenberg is planning to sell a stake in her company and has hired investment banking firm Michel Dyens & Co. to explore options. The brand has been missing a chief executive since the resignation of Paolo Riva in November 2016.
As a private company, DVF does not disclose revenue figures. A 2015 report estimated annual sales of about $500 million, although market sources suggest it could be less than half of that.
According to reports, Saunders faced some degree of friction with Von Furstenberg, who, like many founders, remained very attached to the company that carried her name. On joining the label, Saunders insisted he was copied in on all of Furstenberg’s email communications with the team. He also asked Von Furstenberg not to come to his first presentation for the brand.
DVF first came into prominence in the 1970s, when she introduced her now-iconic jersey wrap dress. After years of ups and downs, the collection was relaunched in 1997. Her first creative director, Yvan Mispelaere, left the company in 2012 after two years, as did Michael Herz, who was her artistic director from 2014 to 2016.
The Scottish fashion designer, known for his skilled use of print and colour, worked with Alexander McQueen, Christian Lacroix at Pucci and Phoebe Philo at Chloé after graduating from Central Saint Martins, before launching his line at London Fashion Week in 2003, to immediate critical acclaim. His debut collection was given the accolade of a British Vogue cover in January 2004.
Saunders joined the American accessible luxury brand as chief creative officer in 2016 after shuttering his critically acclaimed but financially ailing London-based label.
During his tenure, he rebooted DVF’s creative strategy, re-imagining everything from its shopping bags to its logo, store concept and website. His debut Autumn/Winter 2017 campaign for the brand, an ode to modern New York where gender fluidity and individualism prevail, marked a change from glossy imagery to a more inclusive aesthetic. The designer also brought in Katie Hillier, the buzzy British handbag designer and former co-designer at Marc by Marc Jacobs, to consult on handbags.
His first two collections for the brand — Spring/Summer 2017 and Autumn/Winter 2017 — were well received, and DVF’s “optimism and energy looked more seductive — and timely — than ever,” wrote BoF’s editor-at-large Tim Blanks in February 2017.
But like many contemporary brands with a significant wholesale presence, it has struggled to re-establish its place in the market, as new contemporary brands and direct-to-consumer labels emerged, offering consumers similar product for a lower price.
Saunders’ last collection for DVF was Pre-Fall 2018, presented earlier this month.