Label Conscious: The Importance of Brand Identity

Now that fashion month has finally come to a close, we're left with four cities' worth of collections to absorb and reflect on. And much to look forward to as well—not just the appearance of the actual apparel and goods in stores and on the streets, but given the latest wave of designer departures and assignments of new roles, the prospect of what's to come down next season's runways.

First there's Peter Copping who left his post at Nina Ricci to, quite likely, move over to Oscar de la Renta (not yet confirmed, but all signs currently point to yes). And also Guillaume Henry, who announced his departure from Carven, presumably to take the empty seat over at Nina Ricci. Should he in fact become the new head designer at Oscar, Copping will no doubt do an outstanding job as the founding designer's heir. Given his aesthetic and portfolio, it's clear that Copping simply gets it. Henry's potential seems a bit more unpredictable; he certainly has the ability and sensibility for creating feminine, ladylike pieces that bridge the space between modern and classic, not to mention a strong following amongst a certain set of gamines in Hollywood, but Copping's shoes will be big ones to fill, no matter who assumes the role.

More important than the name, reputation, or past accomplishments of any designer coming into an established label, is the job she or he does to maintain that specific brand's identity, while simultaneously evolving and shaping it for the future.

Generally speaking, fashion is universal. There's something out there for everyone. And while brands shouldn't necessarily discriminate amongst their clientele, there needs to be a clear idea of what type of woman they're dressing, if anything for informing the point of view of its designs. A woman who loyally wears Donna Karan may never feel at home shopping in a Ralph Lauren boutique, no matter how subtle those differences in style or aesthetic might be. That's the essence of a brand's identity, its personality, its spirit.

When Chloe's founder Gaby Aghion died last weekend, her many obituaries underscored what the brand originally stood for, and who the ideal Chloe woman was: a free-spirited, independent individual who preferred breezy, feminine pieces in softly-textured fabrics to more restrictive tailoring and traditional silhouettes. And fittingly, head designer Clare Waight Keller's creations this season echoed that mentality.

And there are other designers who effortlessly succeed in this constant endeavor. Without fail, Karl Lagerfeld has masterfully delivered hundreds of collections that are recognizably Chanel—there's no questioning the Kaiser. Only a few seasons in, Nicholas Ghesquière has brought a somewhat modern-nostalgic look to Louis Vuitton that diverges from where Marc Jacobs left off, but feels consistent enough to carry forth the brand's DNA. Hedi Slimane at Saint-Laurent has done a similar job with his post, only more stubbornly so, and sometimes to the extent that many looks seem overly-repeated from one season to the next.

This season David Koma made his debut as head designer for Thierry Mugler, a brand typically known for its over-the-top theatricality and flourish. The mostly-white pieces he sent down the runway were sporty, clean, and sharply-cut. It was a beautiful David Koma collection, but it wasn't Thierry Mugler.

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