Pairing Off Football Managers and Fashion Designers

There are more pros than cons to having a boyfriend, who also writes in the digital fashion-y realm and.  The occasional con being that once in a while, we’ll find ourselves arguing about the most pointless and irrelevant (to our relationship that is) topics such as disagreeing over Ryan McGinley’s aesthetic or whether FKA Twigs’ i-D cover did in fact spawn baby hair mayhem.  The pros are though whilst weathering jet lagged sleeping patterns together in New York, we can get productive and spur each other on in our writing endeavours.  That’s how this article on i-D about the parallels between elite football managers and fashion’s top creative directors came about.  Steve typing away at the desk in our hotel room and reading his draft out loud to me.  Me interjecting with opinion and alternative turns of phrases from the shower.  Team work.  Yay!

I don’t normally repost other people’s content but technically I had more than a hand in this piece and plus… when do I ever get to indulge in my dual love of football and fashion simultaneously on the blog?

I’ve augmented the original article with two extra bonus manager-designer pairings because I just couldn’t help myself…

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 kicking a ball into the net and constructing covetable clothes are propelled by the bottom line. 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.  Dwarfing those figures, in the UK alone, sales of clothing and footwear is expected to reach £19 billion by 2010.  Not short change then.

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 – look at Sunderland’s Dick Advocaat for instance.  Last season, out of the twenty competing clubs in the English Premier League, a total of six managers lost their jobs, while Sam Allardyce, Dick Advocaat (who rejoined Sunderland), and John Carver left their posts following the final game.  And in fashion, the changes are even more dramatic.  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 roller coaster of fashion power moves with more intrigue yet to come.

“We live in a time now where the trend in our society is to always want something new,” noted Arsène 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 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.


Karl Lagerfeld and Arsène Wenger

Despite the whiff of Yves about his appearance, Arsène 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 Arsène has been at Arsenal since 1996), their shared proficiency of foreign tongues (Karl speaks seven, Arsène six), and their Franco-German heritage, it’s their philosophical pronouncements that see them paired here.  Both a press conference with Arsène and an interview with Karl, is an entertaining and 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 José Mourinho

These two 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 as they each have complete control.  “Every single detail seems important,” Hedi Slimane 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.”  José Mourinho follows a similar mantra and his recent outburst around his medical team disobeying his orders to fulfil their job requirements, suggests that he dictates what happens both on and off the pitch.   Ultimately, both are fascinating characters that demand examination, which makes them a dream to write about.  As often as Slimane will seemingly take offence to a review and blacklist critics, Mourinho will storm out of press conferences.  They crave attention.  Their philosophies align too.  Despite their triumphs (Mourinho’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.  Mourinho’s Chelsea team are often accused of parking the bus (a term coined by himself that refers to overly defensive play) and the major fashion critics seem to have a love-hate relationship with Hedi’s product-heavy, retail-friendly designs.  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 had positive yet subdued reviews, the feeling that either sheer triumph or complete disaster lurks around each 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?  Will both come good at their respective positions?  Who knows?  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 Simons moved to Dior and Pep Guardiola to Bayern Munich, the pressures, demands and expectations of their new endeavours have pushed them even higher.  Whereas Simons has challenged himself by adding haute couture to his oeuvre, Guardiola is pushing for Bayern’s bid to win the Champions League.  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 for new and unfamiliar faces.  Di Michele joined Gucci in 2002, initially working in London with Tom Ford, working in the shadows and quietly impressing the powers that be.  Likewise Enrique 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 on-the-rise profits and Barcelona coming off the back of a treble-winning season.


Jonathan Anderson and Brendan Rodgers

Ignoring the fact that Brendan Rodgers and Jonathan Anderson are both from small towns in Northern Ireland, what unites these two are their perceived youth and comparatively rapid ascent to the upper echelons of their fields.  They both started their managerial and design careers in 2008 and currently Rodgers is manager of Liverpool,  one of the world’s biggest clubs that comes heavy with history and Anderson is helming Loewe, a once-traditional Spanish house belonging to LVMH.  They might be “young” (at 42, Rodgers is actually one of the youngest managers around) but they’re ambitious and their new “projects” are intriguing to say the least as Rodgers attempts to mould a Liverpool team to his system and Anderson’s dramatic overhaul of Loewe is nothing short of astonishing.  And yet the proof in the pudding remains to be seen, as Rodgers awaits his first trophy at Liverpool and it’s still too early to tell whether Loewe has become a commercial success.  Time will tell.


Marc Jacobs and Jürgen Klopp

What do you do when you’ve achieved success by building something up from scratch?  You leave on a high and bide your time until the right gig comes along.  Jürgen Klopp was responsible for guiding Borussia Dortmund from mid-table mediocrity to two Bundesliga wins before announcing last year that he would be taking a sabbatical from football management.  Louis Vuitton had no ready to wear entity before Marc Jacobs came along in 1997 and injected his own pop cultural zest with successful collaborations with Stephen Sprouse and Takashi Murakami.  After handing the LV reins over to Nicolas Ghesquière, Jacobs has been concentrating on his own brand.  You get the feeling though that Jacobs is waiting for the house of his dreams to come along just as Klopp might be flying solo before a big enough club comes a calling.  The rumours have circulated that Jacobs could wind up at Chanel, and Klopp at Arsenal when the current incumbents retire.  Further down the line, one manager-designer pairing might well replace another.


Yves Saint Laurent and Alex Ferguson

As the clock chimes midnight and the mists roll in at the Theatre of Dreams, home of Manchester United Football Club and along the Rive Gauche in the 8th arrondissement where YSL’s ateliers once stood, you can see the ghosts of these two icons haunt the halls of their respective houses.  Like rattling chains and cries of “boo,” their achievements terrify all that attempt to follow in their footsteps.  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 see that it’s a tough mantle to bear.  After all, It ain’t YSL without Yves and Sir Alex Ferguson had the power to make the impossible dream a reality.

Answers to the Karl Said/Arsène Said quiz:

Karl Lagerfeld – 1, 3, 6, 8, 9
Arsène Wenger – 2, 4, 5, 7,10

Original text mostly by Steve Salter for i-D with a few adjustments/additions by me.  Messy byline but that’s the truth.

9 Replies to “Pairing Off Football Managers and Fashion Designers”

  1. Amazing read, the whole idea of the post is definitely catchy and it remains throughout, while reading and at the end you want to read some more comparisons.

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