Alice Bouleau, a headhunter and former designer, provides valuable insights into the recruitment process for creative directors in the fashion industry. She also delves into the evolving role of creative directors in the luxury sector. Bouleau, who currently heads the creative division at Sterling International, specializes in finding fashion and luxury executives.

According to Bouleau, fashion houses have different priorities when seeking creative directors. Some value instant credibility and extensive experience, while others prioritize a strong community presence. It is not just about hiring a talented individual; it is also about acquiring their network of industry professionals, celebrities, and existing clients. Bouleau emphasizes that each case is unique, and certain situations require a creative director who can dedicate 100% of their time to a project. However, she believes it is beneficial for creative directors to maintain their own brand under certain conditions to avoid using the fashion house solely as a platform for self-promotion.

Bouleau identifies credibility, both internally and externally, the ability to inspire and unite teams, and relevance in the eyes of the press and the industry as key requirements for creative directors. She notes that leadership skills and the management of studio teams are often overlooked, despite the increasing complexity of the role. Studio sizes can vary significantly depending on factors such as brand turnover, workforce, and positioning. Larger luxury houses can have anywhere from 20 to over 100 designers.

In addition to creative aspects, creative directors are now expected to handle image, marketing, branding, merchandising, and boutique management. They run campaigns, set the tone for shows, and are required to be cross-functional and almost mini-CEOs. Bouleau highlights the importance of recognizing and valuing the real skills associated with the role, such as product expertise and management capabilities.

When it comes to risks, Bouleau explains that many designers are promoted based solely on their design skills without receiving proper management training or coaching. This often leads to toxic management situations when designers suddenly find themselves managing teams. Bouleau emphasizes the need for compatibility between the creative director and the company’s DNA and management. She also stresses the significance of a strong support structure, including a studio director and design team, especially if the creative director is dividing their time with their own brand.

Bouleau acknowledges that there is no perfect profile for a creative director. With the increasing complexity of profiles, it is impossible to find an expert in every aspect. She suggests analyzing a candidate’s skills and experience to determine areas where support may be needed, whether it be creative marketing strategy or studio management. Bouleau believes that the search for creative directors primarily focuses on three types of profiles: established creative directors, emerging designers, and experienced design directors who have risen through the ranks within a brand.

Regarding financial aspects, Bouleau explains that the remuneration for creative directors varies depending on economic factors and location. Companies are often willing to invest more in creative directors compared to other positions due to the nature of the role and the potential for a shorter career span.

Creative directors are frequently changed, and Bouleau attributes this to the industry’s desire for immediate success. If a designer does not achieve success right away, there is pressure to make a change, even though success is often influenced by various factors beyond creative direction.

Bouleau notes that the average age of designers in studios seems to be young, and creative directors are also getting younger. This leaves many experienced designers questioning their options. Some become consultants, professors, or pursue personal projects. Bouleau acknowledges the bias towards younger designers in the industry, which has worsened in recent years.

When it comes to finding the right profile, Bouleau emphasizes the importance of constant prospecting and conducting exploratory interviews regularly. She believes that maintaining a network and establishing relationships with professionals in the industry lays the foundation for efficient recruitment processes when assignments arise.

Bouleau also addresses the challenges faced by individuals from less privileged backgrounds trying to pursue a career in fashion. Access to fashion schools, work placements, and securing the first job often require networking and financial resources, creating barriers for those without privilege.

As the role of creative directors continues to evolve and expectations increase, the recruitment process becomes more complex. Bouleau’s insights shed light on the changing landscape of the fashion industry and the importance of finding the right fit for creative director positions.

Useful Links:
How to Become a Creative Director
Fashion Careers: How to Break Into the Industry