Do you ever wonder if John Lennon’s glittering musical career would have yielded as much success without Paul McCartney? Or if the hapless shenanigans of Laurel would have pulled in quite as many laughs without Hardy by his side? How do you think the great Chinese philosophy Ying would have coped without Yang? Ok, so it may derive from the theory that opposites attract but be it ancient Oriental beliefs, music or comedy I think it’s fair to assume in all three cases one would be very much lost without the other.
However, does the same adage ring true in the world of fashion? This is after all an industry where great individuals including Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga to name but three created fashion houses that revolved around their very names and their names only; and yet at the same juncture one need only look to fashion behemoths Dolce & Gabbana and Viktor & Rolf or British newcomers such as Agi & Sam to bear witness to the fact sometimes, two can be better than one.
The problem here lies within the fact that while most brands, for example, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton or Alexander McQueen, operate under a single moniker, in reality, when you delve beneath the name, there is often another person or persons just as integral to the brand and the designs created who may not step out from behind the curtain come the end of another catwalk show but without whom the designer would be lost.
For anyone who has watched the wonderfully engaging and insightful documentary Dior & I, the tale of Raf Simons first haute couture collection for the fabled house, it is not the designer but his trusted and loyal sidekick Pieter Mulier who steals the show. Simons may have taken all the plaudits in front of the adoring masses during the shows finale but it’s the single bouquet of flowers given by his trusted lieutenant, who moved with Raf to the house as Studio Director, to the ateliers working around the clock who touched my heart and undoubtedly the hearts of the women who had worked under the roof of Dior long before Simons name was heard outside of Belgium.
As Muller, who followed Simons to Calvin Klein last year, says of the duos relationship: “It evolved from being colleagues to a friendship now. I always think it’s like a ping-pong game. He taught me a lot about art… and luckily this is also my background so this helps and I think it works in both ways.”
The list of silent partners does not begin and end with Simons and Muller. Paul Smith and his graceful signature may adorn every beautiful boutique from London to Tokyo but he’s the first to admit his loving wife Pauline is as much a part of the creative process once saying: ‘It’s my missus, more than anybody, who keeps me going. Really, without her, I think I would have just been a shop assistant in Nottingham.’ When Alexander McQueen suddenly passed away n 2010, eyebrows were raised when his largely unknown right-hand woman Sarah Burton was announced as his successor. One wedding dress for HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton and an OBE later and it’s safe to say that Lee McQueen’s vision was realized as much through Burton’s eyes as his own.
Fashion has a funny knack of singling out the individual but while the shoppers who saunter along swanky Parisian boulevards and cobbled London streets are looking at the name above the door, those in fashions inner sanctum recognize any great designer will always have a team to see his or hers dream bear fruition. It is an industry that relies upon an evolution of ideas coming together to create one narrative and for all the plaudits the designer may take, they know that without their confidantes, the seamstresses, the stylists et al the vision within their dreams can only step out into the realms of reality under the guise of a collective collaboration. As a philosopher might say, there can be no Ying without Yang.
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