Game of Thrones

These creative fashion heads at the biggest luxury houses are redefining the way we dress. 

Giant fashion houses have always had many creative or artistic directors shuffle, switch, or move. Sometimes for a progressive, fresh take on collections. Occasionally, for a brand to keep redefining what culture or “in the moment” means from a definitive lens of style and lifestyle. These gentlemen, who’ve recently taken their seats at the most premium brands, have shaken up the status quo of luxury fashion, presenting it in a manner that caters to variegated subcultures, not just an elite set. They’re also the central forces in deciding how the world dresses up today.    

Pharrell Williams Photo by Claudio LaveniaGetty Images.jpg
 Photo by Claudio LaveniaGetty Images

Pharrell Williams @ Louis Vuitton  
Pharrell Williams embodies a professional coolth few designers can match. A 13-time Grammy Award winner. A serial collaborator, having provided his brain matter and design chops to brands like Billionaire Boys Club, Moncler, Adidas, G-Star Raw, Uniqlo, and Chanel. A judge on The Voice; an executive producer on Dope. But perhaps there’s no bigger win than where the multi-hyphenate stands today as Louis Vuitton’s men’s artistic director. His first show last year at the iconic Pont Neuf in Paris was the Superbowl of fashion weeks, with everyone from Jay-Z and Beyoncé to Rihanna and Zendaya sitting in the front row. His sophomore effort this January for Fall/ Winter 24 was orchestrated in the same extravagant manner, with an underlying cowboy theme to nod to his Virginia roots. The champion in all of it remains the fashion. Glammed-up, statement-making clothes that straddle luxury and street. Sensation pieces like the Millionaire Speedy—priced at, you guessed it, $1 million—now clutching the hands of the world’s biggest sports stars and musicians. Naysayers will comment that Williams puts up spectacles more than runway shows. Either way, it’s put Pharrell on the gold throne of high fashion with the spotlight firmly trained on him, and in turn, Louis Vuitton.  


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Sabato De Sarno @ Gucci  
When a designer enters a fashion house to take the creative hot seat, it always brings with it plenty of buzz and chatter. In Sabato De Sarno’s case, it was doubly noisy. His predecessor Alessandro Michele had taken Gucci to the zenith of maximal fashion that often intimated the wearer. And, so, Sarno had the mammoth task of not only disrupting the matrix and kickstarting a new Gucci renaissance but also commercialise the brand and making it high fashion, all at once. Sarno made his womenswear debut in February last year and his menswear line hit the runway in January this year. Unlike the sequinned glamour and theatrics, we were used to seeing in Michele’s reign; Sarno made a case for understated audacity and sexiness. Clean suits, micro shorts, unbuttoned satin shirts, bombers—all crafted to denote slick silhouettes, with pops of sparkle. Critics were on the fence about if Sarno played it too safe. But the truth is that Sarno's shaping a new narrative of fashion at the Italian house that speaks to the real world. “My dreams, as with my fashion, always converse with reality. Because I am not searching for another world to live in, but rather of ways to live in this world,” relayed the designer in his show notes circulated at the recently concluded Gucci presentation at Milan Fashion Week.  


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Daniel Lee @ Burberry  
Quite simply, Daniel Lee may just be one of the most ingenious designers around. Before joining Burberry, Lee turned around the narrative at Bottega Veneta, taking it from a classic Italian fashion house to one of the most hyped-up and talked about modern-day brands. There were no obtuse logos or in-your-face promos. But he set the standard for quiet luxury, well before it became a thing. Now he’s weaving his magic at Burberry after joining as chief creative officer in September 2022. For the British native, it was something of a homecoming—to hold the torch at one of the most luxurious heritage fashion brands born out of the UK. For Burberry, it was exciting to see a local hero after the departure of Italian designer Riccardo Tisci. Lee’s first order of business? To release a new logo of the Equestrian Knight from 1901. With it, he rolled out campaigns with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur captain Son Heung-min; musician King Krule; and Arsenal right winger Bukayo Saka—signalling a cultural shift where the alternative became mainstream. Next came Burberry’s signature Tartan print being used in innovative forms and pleasing colours across categories, and not just the brand’s iconic trench coat. What Lee did, and is successfully doing, is speaking a contemporary language that appeals to a Gen-Z state of mind, while attracting an informed audience that’s also very much a part of the zeitgeist.   

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Matthieu Blazy @ Bottega Veneta  
In 2014, New York Magazine had crowned Matthieu Blazy as “The most famous designer you’ve never heard of.” That’s how low-key he was. He started as Raf Simons’ Men’s Designer. Next, he was rumoured to be the main man behind the transformation of Margiela couture when the brand’s founding designer quit. Post that, he was the behind-the-scenes sorcerer during Phoebe Philo’s successful reign at Céline. Then he brought Calvin Klein back to life under his old mentor Simons. Yet, no one really saw Blazy. He wasn’t hanging out with the Jenners; taking his bow gallantly on the runway or giving interviews to glossies. Until he came into Bottega Veneta as predecessor Daniel Lee’s right hand, before making his way to the top. That’s when he became an inescapable name in the fashion lexicon. A master craftsman whose deft use of textiles, especially his innovation with the brand’s signature Intrecciato weave, is second to none. While Lee was credited with metamorphosising Bottega Veneta, Blazy’s taken it to peak level popularity and set the template for quiet (but hype) luxury.  


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Andrea DelboPenske Media via Getty Images


Andrea Pompilio @ Onitsuka Tiger
He's arguably fashion’s biggest underdog, who's managed to make Onitsuka Tiger something of a luxe-fashion mainstay on the Milan Fashion Week calendar—since the Japanese brand first presented its FW 2021 collection on the runway. Not just that he's proven that he can take what was once perceived as a streetwear brand to its fashion peak—packaging and presenting it today to a discerning audience. It’s proof of Pompilio's design chops and unmatched versatility. 


Matteo Tamburuni photo by Lucas Possiede.jpeg
Photo by Lucas Possiede

Matteo Tamburini @ Tod’s  
He may only be a show old at Tod’s, having presented his debut collection on the womenswear calendar at Milan Fashion Week F/W 24 in February, but Tamburini’s already set the ball rolling for what might be a new era at the Italian luxury house. Tod’s, unlike many of the aggressive hype brands that occupy the high fashion food chain, has always been deep-rooted in tradition and never conformed to passing trends. What 41-year-old Tamburini so cleverly did was retain the idea that luxury clothes are meant to last a lifetime but are also made for the here and now. Out came a comprehensive everyday wardrobe—double-layer striped shirts, ribbed knitwear, and dramatic leather gowns that allude to Tamburini’s stint at Bottega Veneta from 2017 to 2023. Each piece is elevated with trappings to let a passerby know that you’re wearing Tod’s, without screaming it out loud. The same goes for the footwear that remains the bedrock of the brand. The beloved Gommino loafer saw the addition of a minimal metal bar for men and leather tassels for women. Small but significant changes that Tamburini incorporated to allow the wearer to let the world know that you’re very much part of an uber-trendy crowd, and you still will be 10 years later.   

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