Now You Know: What Happens When a Designer Leaves His Own Label

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Welcome to Now You Know, Eric Wilson’s column that will help you become a fashion know-it-all in one easy read. Each week, he’ll take a look at an endearing fashion influence and why it’s relevant right now. Enjoy!

In one of the stranger comments a designer has ever made about the decision to leave their own fashion house, Ralph Rucci (pictured, above), who did so just last week, said the following: “I needed to take a step into the future to put the perspective in the past, so that I can redo the future.”

Well, that says it all, doesn’t it? It’s always a bit awkward when a designer becomes separated from their own name, most often the result of a clash between creative and commercial interests that pit the designer against their financial backers. This is almost never said publicly, however, for legal reasons and fears of lawsuits. (This may help explain Rucci’s time-traveling tongue twister, delivered at an FGI Tastemakers Luncheon on Tuesday.) But designers who don't get along with their financial backers are becoming a growing problem in fashion, leading to a new industry term you need to know: Mislabels.

Mislabels are fashion houses that bear the names of founding designers who, for various reasons, no longer go to work there. These include very famous houses like Helmut Lang and Jil Sander, both of which became mislabels after those designers disagreed with executives at the Prada Group, which owned their labels at the time. Sander (pictured, below) is actually a repeat mislabel, since the designer has returned to her company and left again twice more over the last decade. The collection bearing her name is now designed by Rodolfo Paglialunga.

Junko Kimura/Getty Images

There are also mislabels you might not recognize as such, simply because the designers are not yet as famous. Doo-ri Chung, once a rising star on Seventh Avenue, Devi Kroell, the accessories designer, and Simon Spurr from men’s wear no longer design under their names, but have found work elsewhere. Spurr, for example, went on to design for Kent & Curwen. Other mislabels include John Galliano’s signature collection has been designed by Bill Gaytten since Galliano’s dismissal in 2011, and Hervé Léger, which is now designed by Max Azria.

This is actually an interesting story. Léger himself, famous for his bandage dresses of the 1980s and 90s, lost control of the use of his name in 1990, but the designer didn’t miss a beat. Rather than working for another house, he changed his name, to Hervé L. Leroux, at the suggestion of Karl Lagerfeld because of his red hair, and found his own way to redo the future.

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