the worlds of fashion and football are closer than you think

Fashion and football may appear to have nothing in common, but the power shifts at the top of both industries bear a striking resemblance. Hear me out...

by Steve Salter
26 August 2015, 11:36pm

A game of two halves, an industry of two seasons. Creative director musical chairs could similarly be compared to the shuffling of football managers. At the top of the league of football's premier competitions and in the crown jewels of fashion conglomerates, those positions are tenuous, enveloped by gossip, fraught with fear of dismissal and increasingly short term in their outlook of success.

Today, something as seemingly straightforward as enticing a ball into the net and constructing covetable clothes are propelled by the bottom line. Now, it's not entirely clear what the total size of the Premier League economy actually is, but it's thought that its income tax and national insurance contribution alone is worth more than £1.3 billion per year to the British government and the Premier League recently sold television rights to its games for a record £5.136bn, 71% above last time. That's not short change.

Ultimately, two crafts have evolved into billion pound industries and are now driven by similar shape-shifting beasts. The result? The merry-go-rounds of talent of creative directors and managerial makeweights are accelerating at an alarming rate. Both worlds are besieged with rumour because they are beset by an insatiable appetite for newness. The switching, shuffling and shifting of suits and signatures is expected, encouraged even. As the betting hots up about who will replace Alexander Wang at Balenciaga, elsewhere odds tighten the noose around a manager's neck whose team has struggled at the beginning of a new season - the future looks bleak for Sunderland's Dick Advocaat. Last season, (out of the twenty competing clubs) a total of six managers lost their jobs, while Sam Allardyce, Dick Advocaat (only to re-join Sunderland), and John Carver left their posts following the final game. That's bleak. From Frida Giannini's premature exit at Gucci to Christophe Lemaire bidding adieu to Hermes and Marco Zanini stepping down at Schiaparelli to John Galliano's triumphant return at Margiela, the last twelve months have been a rollercoaster of fashion power moves.

"We live in a time now where the trend in our society is to always want something new," noted Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's manager of 19 years. "I still believe that longevity and cohesion and the history and the values of a club have to be carried by someone," he added. He was discussing the management of football's elite club but his words could easily be tweaked and applied to your favourite fashion houses. Both managers and designers today are well aware of the job requirements and expectations before they sign the dotted line. Each have seen creative and tactical geniuses fall, and they understand that fashion is no longer just about creation but also about transactions, and football is not just about trophies but profit. If you're still struggling to see the similarities, I've twinned six creative directors with six managers and all will become clear.

Karl Lagerfeld and Arsene Wenger
Despite the whiff of Yves about his appearance (maybe that's just me), Arsene is Karl. Beyond the impressive longevity of their current positions in industries used to seeing such upheaval (Karl has been at Chanel since 1983 whilst Arsene has been at Arsenal since 1996), their shared proficiency of foreign tongues (Karl speaks seven, Arsene six), and their Franco-German heritage, it's their philosophical pronouncements that see them paired here. Both a press conference with Arsene and an interview with Karl, is an entertaining, enthralling duel. The press love them both, because they're intelligent, articulate and - crucially - always willing to share their opinion. Each possess a wit and wisdom that extends far beyond the atelier and football pitch, with statements popping up like offbeat news flashes. Don't believe? Here's a selection of quotes from them, can you decipher who said what? (answers below but don't cheat!)

1) "There is nothing worse than bringing up the 'good old days.' To me, that's the ultimate acknowledgment of failure."

2) "If you eat caviar every day it's difficult to return to sausages."

3) "I've always known that I was made to live this way, that I would be this sort of legend."

4) "Any man who concentrates his energies totally on one passion is, by definition, someone who hurts the people close to him."

5) "Nobody has enough talent to live on talent alone. Even when you have talent, a life without work goes nowhere."

6) "The only love that I believe in is a mother's love for her children."

7) "The biggest things in life have been achieved by people who, at the start, we would have judged crazy. And yet if they had not had these crazy ideas the world would have been more stupid."

8) "I am never satisfied with myself and that is what keeps me going - I have no post-satisfaction."

9) "Why should I stop working? If I do, I'll die and it'll all be finished."

10) "Retirement? Yes, it crosses my mind sometimes but for no longer than five seconds because I panic a little bit."

Hedi Slimane and Jose Mourinho
As each of them deservedly toast their own successes, both divisive figures court controversy and appear to thrive on the power of conflict. At Chelsea and Saint Laurent respectively, their influence extends beyond the locker room and studio; they each have complete control. "Every single detail seems important," Hedi confessed in a recent interview with "It is about consistency, an aesthetic equation that needs constantly to evolve. It is quite overwhelming to design all those elements, but if the house wants to keep a distinct voice there is no other choice. Every single block, from design to communication, needs to stay perfectly aligned," he added. Jose follows a similar mantra and his recent outburst around his medical team disobeying his orders to fulfil their job requirements, suggest he requires similar levels of control. Ultimately, both are enthralling characters that demand examination - they are a dream to write about. As often as Hedi will seemingly take offence to a review and blacklist critics, Jose will storm out of press conferences. They crave attention. However, for me, it's the similarities in their philosophies that interests me here. Despite their triumphs (Jose's trophy cabinet is so full that he tosses runner's up medals at the crowds and Saint Laurent's sales figures defy the gravitational pull of industry trends and continue to skyrocket), they are criticised for succeeding in the wrong way. Whilst Jose is accused of parking the bus (a term coined by Jose himself that refers to overly defensive play), the fashion industry have a love-hate relationship with Hedi's product-heavy, retail-friendly designs. For each of them, success might outweigh theatre at times but they are far from a dull pair.

John Galliano and Louis van Gaal
Both have achieved so much in their glittering careers but are relative unknown quantities in their new positions. Whilst Van Gaal struggled in his first season at Manchester United and Galliano's Margiela debut was critically acclaimed, the feeling that either sheer triumph or complete disaster lurks around each and every corner, follows these two powerhouses. Every possible action and eventual outcome is analysed to death. Will Galliano take his bow at the end of the runway? Will Louis Van Gaal make sense at a press conference? Who knows? Time will tell. One thing is for certain, these are two to watch.

Raf Simons and Pep Guardiola
These two are paired, not just because they are my two man crushes but because they both evolved by challenging themselves in new positions. As Raf moved to Dior and Pep moved to Bayern Munich, the pressures, demands and expectations of their new endeavours have pushed them even higher. They are without doubt, the two leaders of their fields, seducing all that cross their paths. Hugely likeable, they manage to combine commerce and success with style and panache, they are critic proof, golden boys. Watch and learn in wonder.

Alessandro di Michele and Luis Enrique
Both were recently promoted from back-room staff into the top jobs and excelled under the weight of the heightened expectation. Whilst high profiles names were linked to the vacant positions at Gucci and Barcelona, the hierarchies of both powerhouses plumped with familiar faces. Alessandro joined Gucci in 2002, initially working in London with Tom Ford, working in the shadows and quietly impressing the powers that be. Similarly Luis joined Barcelona initially as a versatile midfielder in 1996 before returning to taking the reigns at Barcelona B in his first managerial position. Both are seeing the fruits of their successful seasons with Gucci recently announcing in-the-black profits and Barcelona coming off the back of a treble-winning season.

Yves Saint Laurent and Alex Ferguson
As the clock chimes midnight and the mists roll in at the Theatre of Dreams and along the Rive Gauche and 16th, you can see still the ghosts of these two icons haunt the halls of their respective houses and like rattling chains and cries of "boo," their achievements terrify all that attempt to follow in their footsteps. Any and every successor is, and will forever be, compared to the greatness achieved by these two luminaries. All you have to do is look into the eyes of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal or Stefano Pilati and Hedi Slimane, and their suffering is clearly visible. After all, It ain't YSL without Yves and Sir Alex Ferguson had the power to make the impossible dream a reality.


Text Steve Salter
Special thanks to Susie Lau for helping to brainstorm the designer/manager pairings.
Karl Lagerfeld - 1, 3, 6, 8, 9
Arsene Wenger - 2, 4, 5, 7,10

steve salter