BoF Logo

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.

Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015

BoF unveils the biggest stories of the year.
(L-R) Alber Elbaz, Raf Simons | Source: BoF
  • BoF Team

LONDON, United Kingdom — Designer departures, an e-commerce mega merger and the Apple Watch drop — BoF brings you the 10 news stories that defined the year.

1. Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz Exit Within a Week (Above)

Two of the year's biggest stories broke in the same week. In October, Dior announced that Raf Simons was leaving the house just one month after the presentation of his critically acclaimed Spring/Summer 2016 collection in Paris. Wrapping up a three-and-a-half year tenure, Simons had "reached the decision for personal reasons," said a statement released by Dior, which many interpreted as his growing frustration with the problematic pace and unsustainable pressures of the fashion industry. Six days later, news broke that Alber Elbaz, creative director of Lanvin since 2001, had been ousted from the French fashion house. Elbaz's sudden firing is said to be the fallout from a breakdown in relations between him and Shaw-Lan Wang, the Chinese businesswoman, who bought Lanvin from L'Oréal in 2001.

2. Gucci Appoints Alessandro Michele Creative Director

Alessandro Michele | Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFA

One of the most surprising news stories in fashion this year quickly became one of the biggest success stories. In January, Alessandro Michele, previously head accessories designer at Gucci, was appointed creative director of the Italian luxury fashion house after former creative director Frida Giannini abruptly exited the label, leaving Michele with only five days to design his first runway collection (Men's Autumn/Winter 2015). Together, Michele and Marco Bizzarri, the newly appointed president and chief executive officer, who replaced former chief Patrizio di Marco as part of a broader shake up at the business, have delivered a swift turnaround. In November, Bizzarri told BoF that sell-through on the collections has been so strong that he has decided not to markdown Michele's first two collections.

3. Yoox and Net-a-Porter Merge

Natalie Massenet | Source: Shutterstock

March saw the creation of the world's largest luxury e-commerce platform — the result of a major merger between luxury online retailers Yoox and Net-a-Porter. London-based Net-a-Porter, which was conceived by Natalie Massanet in 2000 and valued at over £500 million in 2010, merged with Italian Yoox in the Spring, at the wish of Net-a-Porter's controlling shareholder, Richemont. The Swiss conglomerate said it expected a one-time gain of around 317 million euros from the transaction, took a 50 percent stake in the newly created Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, which will also trade on the Italian stock exchange. The deal, which closed in early Autumn, briefly brought together two former business rivals — the company's founders, Natalie Massenet (Net-a-Porter) and Frederico Marchetti (Yoox), with Marchetti appointed as chief executive of the new venture, while Massenet had planned to take the role of executive chairman. However, six months later in September, Massenet announced her resignation mid-merger, citing plans to explore "new ideas and opportunities" and taking with her a $150 million gain from sold shares in Net-a-Porter.

4. Demna Gvasalia Appointed Creative Director of Balenciaga

Demna Gvasalia | Photo: Willy Vanderperre

Balenciaga waved goodbye to Alexander Wang in October before naming Demna Gvasalia of the buzzed-about collective Vetements as its new creative director. Gvasalia has spent the past couple of seasons sending ripples through the Paris fashion scene as Vetements' head designer and spokesperson. Prior to that, Gvasalia cut his teeth at Louis Vuitton and Maison Martin Margiela, where he worked behind the scenes for eight years. Although Balenciaga's parent company Kering does not break out figures, market sources estimate the brand turns over revenues of more than 350 million euros (about $393 million). Gvasalia is expected to stage his first show as creative director for the house in March 2016 during Paris Fashion Week, while continuing to lead Vetements at the same time.

5. Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren Step Back

Donna Karen and Ralph Lauren | Source: Shutterstock

This year saw two titans of American design, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren, both declare they would be stepping back from their businesses. In July, Karan announced her immediate departure as chief designer from Donna Karan International, the company she founded in 1981 with her late husband, Stephen Weiss. Karan had already handed over the creative reigns of DKNY to Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow, founders and designers of Public School, in April— a move that had ignited excitement about the iconic, but ailing American brand, which is part of LVMH. Karan will focus on Urban Zen, a project she started in 2007, which sells apparel, jewellery and homeware, while a new chief designer for Donna Karan is yet to be announced. Three months later Karan's contemporary Ralph Lauren announced that he would be stepping down as chief executive to be succeeded by Stefan Larson, former chief executive of Gap Inc., effective from November. Lauren will remain on at the company, however, as executive chairman and chief creative officer.

6. China Slowdown Hits Louis Vuitton, Prada and Burberry

Louis Vuitton Store IFC Mall Shanghai | Source: ShutterStock

The economic slowdown in China, once the luxury industry's most important market for growth, has hit brands hard this year. While the Chinese population still represents 31 percent of the $1 trillion luxury goods industry, sales have significantly declined due to an economic slowdown, a government crack down on gift giving and nearly 80 percent of Chinese luxury purchases being made outside of China. Brands including Burberry, Prada and Louis Vuitton have all seen revenues tumble in response. In December, Prada blamed sluggish sales in Asia Pacific (its largest single market) for a 37 percent drop in quarterly profits. Likewise, Burberry's shares tumbled 13 percent after a sharp decline in sales in the region saw the brand miss its third-quarter sales forecast. Sales were down 20 percent and 5 percent in Hong Kong and China respectively, resulting in Burberry's lowest share value since December 2012 and wiping $1 billion off its market value, while in November, Louis Vuitton announced that it would shutter eight stores across the country.

7.'s Transformation screenshot | Source:

Speaking exclusively to BoF in April, Condé Nast announced plans to transform into an e-commerce platform as part of the company's commitment to tapping the $1.5 trillion global online retail market. The site, which has since officially shuttered, will re-launch as an online retail platform in the 2016, although a date is yet to be confirmed. Meanwhile,'s content — predominantly fashion news and catwalk coverage — has migrated to, which launched at the end of August. Many prominent staff members departed, including former editor-in-chief, Dirk Standen, who left to become digital creative director of another Condé Nast title, W; while Tommy Ton, the site's street style photographer, left Condé Nast to start his own website, Tim Blanks, editor-at-large at for nine years, joined BoF as editor-at-large in September.

8. Further Woes at American Apparel

American Apparel | Source: Reuters

The American Apparel saga goes on. After allegations of sexual assault, multiple lawsuits and the ousting of founder and chief executive Dov Charney, it finally filed for bankruptcy in October. The retailer, which hasn't had a profitable year since 2009, reported a loss of $92.9 million in the first half of 2015, had been spiralling increasingly out of control following the departure of Charney in late 2014, following a number of accusations of improper conduct. Summer 2015 saw Standard General, a stakeholder in the company, file a lawsuit against Charney, who remains American Apparel's largest shareholder, for his "meritless" and "destructive actions." A few months before, Charney had launched his own suit, accusing the retailer of defamation. The company filed for bankruptcy protection at the beginning of October. Under the agreement, lenders will write off around $200 million of bonds in exchange for equity in the company, which has said it aims to become profitable for 2018. In a further twist, however, Charney has launched his own bid to regain control of the brand he founded.

9. The Death of the Diffusion Line — Burberry, Victoria Beckham and Marc Jacobs

Marc by Marc Jacobs Autumn/Winter 2014 campaign | Source: Marc by Marc Jacobs

In 2015, Burberry, Victoria Beckham and Marc Jacobs each announced they would be shuttering their diffusion lines to unify their collections under a single brand. Last month, Christopher Bailey, chief executive officer of Burberry, told reporters that the company's various labels, including Burberry Prosum, London and Brit, would be phased out by the end of 2016, to be replaced by a new, single brand — simply known as Burberry. Earlier in the year, both Marc Jacobs and Victoria Beckham had announced they would be closing their respective affordable diffusion lines, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Victoria. With increasing competition from accessible luxury brands such as Michael Kors, and advanced contemporary labels such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, the future of the diffusion line seems shaky.

10. Apple Watch Drops

Apple CEO Tim Cook | Source Reuters

The most breathlessly anticipated product launch of 2015 was the Apple watch, which finally dropped in April, retailing from $349 for the basic model, to $17,000 for the most expensive (which features an 18-carat gold case and leather strap). The launch saw a concerted effort from the technology company to market the Apple Watch as a luxury smart watch. It appeared on the cover of Vogue China, and the wrists of Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld. In September, Apple went one step further, announcing a collaboration with Hermès. However, after the company's first earning call following the April launch, analysts lowered their estimates of devices sold in the watch's first quarter from a range of 2.85 million to 5.7 million units, to a consensus of between 2.2 and 3 million units. Nonetheless, a more recent report by analytics firm Canalys estimated that Apple had shipped almost 7 million units — "a figure in excess of all other vendors' combined shipments over the previous five quarters."

© 2022 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions

More from News & Analysis
Fashion News, Analysis and Business Intelligence from the leading digital authority on the global fashion industry.

Join us for our next #BoFLIVE on Thursday, February 16 at 15:00 GMT / 10:00 EST, based on our latest case Study How to Build a Profitable DTC Brand. BoF’s deputy editor Brian Baskin along with DTC correspondent Malique Morris and chief marketing officer of UK-based beauty brand Trinny London, Shira Feuer explore blueprints for growing a profitable brand.

The 10 themes in The State of Fashion 2023, the authoritative annual report from The Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company, highlight how businesses can deploy realistic yet bold strategies to drive growth, even amid challenging times.

view more

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
BoF Professional Summit - An Inflection Point in Fashion Tech
© 2023 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and Accessibility Statement.
BoF Professional Summit - An Inflection Point in Fashion Tech