Brioni creative director Justin O'Shea quits

Before his stint at Brioni, Justin O'Shea was fashion director of German e-commerce giant MyTheresa.
Before his stint at Brioni, Justin O'Shea was fashion director of German e-commerce giant MyTheresa.PHOTO: NYTIMES

PARIS • Justin O'Shea, the former buying director and rebel in a pinstripe suit who was hired with great fanfare by Brioni in March to become its creative director - despite having no design experience - has left the Italian menswear brand after only six months, the company confirmed on Tuesday.

The fall 2017 collection will not be shown on the runway. Instead, it will be presented to buyers at the brand's Milan showroom from the middle of next month, a Brioni spokesman said.

O'Shea, 37, is the bearded and heavily tattooed former fashion director of German e-commerce giant MyTheresa, who commands an avid street-style following. He had unveiled his debut designs for the house to only 95 guests during Paris Couture Week in July.

Despite generally positive reviews, the collection - full of slick high-waist suits, champagne silk shirts and large mohair or crocodile skin jackets - raised eyebrows, given Brioni's traditional C-suite client base and sky-high price tags (suits begin at US$4,900, or S$6,720, off the rack).

News of the unorthodox appointment three months earlier had shocked the industry, given O'Shea's lack of formal training and studio experience.

But Brioni, the Roman tailoring label owned by Kering that has long suited the super rich without being particularly fashion-forward, was looking to reinvent itself. The hiring came as brands across the luxury sector are straining for innovative approaches in an ever competitive environment.

"The pressures today on brands are high and the ultimate test is how you move a collection forward without completely abandoning the customer base," said Mr Robert Burke, founder of the luxury consulting firm that bears his name.

But just as surprising was O'Shea's quick exit - even by the standards of an industry where three-year terms for creative directors are increasingly the rule, rather than the exception. He quit over the implementation of Brioni's strategy, a source close to the company said.

The fashion world, in Paris for the womenswear shows, was taken aback.

"One minute you're sitting in Caviar Kaspia with Metallica and rivers of vodka, next minute there's this curt news release," said Mr Ashley Heath, editorial director at the magazine, Arena Homme+.

Mr Burke agreed. "Radical changes are high risk," he said. "Brioni was a very established brand and may have needed some dusting off and updating. But this was a major overhaul. The speed at which this one came to an end suggests something wasn't working."

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Brioni creative director quits'. Print Edition | Subscribe