Matthieu Blazy is the latest behind-the-scenes fashion designer to land a top job at a luxury brand. After waiting in the wings at Bottega Veneta since joining last year, he has been announced as the new creative director. The appointment, effective immediately, follows news last week that English designer Daniel Lee had quit in the middle of a hugely successful turnaround, with sales boosted and Bottega Veneta setting the fashion agenda as never before.
Blazy’s name is not well known outside the fashion industry, but he has extensive experience. A graduate of La Cambre School of Art and Design in Brussels, and a protégé of Raf Simons for whom he worked on Simons’ own label and at Calvin Klein, Blazy went on to work with Phoebe Philo at Celine where he overlapped with Lee.
He may not be used to the limelight but Blazy has first-hand experience of the pressures of the top job. Under the shroud of anonymity it offered its designers, he headed up Maison Margiela’s ready-to-wear and artisanal line. His identity was revealed by Suzy Menkes in 2014, with the critic declaring, “you can’t keep such talent under wraps”.
Blazy’s partner, Pieter Mulier, the long-time right-hand man of Raf Simons and recently appointed creative director of Alaïa, is following the same career trajectory.
It was once standard practice for fashion bosses to seek out the starriest name they could find to fill a vacant creative director post (and then give free rein to reinvent the house) but businesses are increasingly looking in-house when the time comes to begin a new chapter.
It’s an approach that has worked well for Kering, the French multinational that owns multiple luxury brands: Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, arguably the world’s most influential designer, for example, started out there designing handbags before working his way up to the top spot.
However, given the similarities between Blazy and his predecessor’s career trajectory (think sleek, exacting minimalism, not unlike the aesthetic Lee has pioneered at Bottega), the new appointment is unlikely to herald a seismic shift for the brand. Certainly, insiders are not predicting an overhaul of Michele scale and proportion.
Instead, fans of Lee’s bestselling pouch bags and stomping Tire boots can expect more of the same. Undoubtedly, there is a sense that Kering has prioritised a need for continuity and a desire to hang on tight to the new customers acquired during his tenure. It’s an approach that has worked well for Saint Laurent which, under Anthony Vaccarello, follows a path that isn’t worlds apart from the one laid by Hedi Slimane during his overhaul of the house.
Blazy’s appointment has been well received by the industry who congratulated him with a stream of emojis, posted on his Instagram feed. The New York Times fashion director, Vanessa Friedman, took to Twitter to express approval. “It’s about time he [Blazy] got a brand. This is going to be interesting,” she wrote.