Wanting to focus her energy on philanthropic projects, Diane von Furstenberg made the decision last year to hand over the creative reins of her 45-year-old fashion house to Jonathan Saunders, a Scottish designer known for his love of color and prints. Saunders, 39, had recently closed down his London-based line and was eager to pursue something more “personal and solitary,” like furniture design.
But he found the opportunity too good to pass up. “She wanted someone to take the brand in a new direction—and that was enticing,” he says.
Four seasons in, he’s done just that, infusing the clothes with what he likes to call a “sensual eccentricity.” He’s also reworked the logo, website, and stores; introduced influencers; and generally reimagined the identity of DVF as a fun, free, arty New York label that can carry on even without its illustrious founder.
And he’s done it with the help of his friends.
“I love the idea of collaborating with a team of creatives to build a new vocabulary,” Saunders says of the merry band of cool talents he’s brought on board. Among them: Katie Hillier, the British accessories designer and former creative director of Marc by Marc Jacobs, who, along with Luella Bartley, runs her own fashion label, Hillier Bartley. As Hillier’s longtime friend, Saunders knew she could provide a poppy, playful attitude to the line of bags, which for fall includes a patchwork leather carryall and a swingy evening number in snakeskin and sequins.
“She’s fun, and it’s important to have some joy in the design process,” Saunders says.
Earlier this year, Saunders scrapped the kisses and scrawled initials that had long served as the company identity, debuting a simpler, more architectural logo courtesy of the Australian-born, London-based creative director Jonny Lu, whose clients include Victoria Beckham and Ivy Park.
Saunders and Lu were introduced by the fashion producer Sylvia Farago, and found they shared a similar streamlined approach to branding. “We looked at the city and the subway as inspiration—I wanted the logo to feel more modern,” says Lu, who has also redesigned the website and overseen Saunders’s ad campaign for fall, a celebration of New York.
To shoot it, Saunders enlisted Oliver Hadlee Pearch, a rising British photographer who contributes regularly to i-D magazine and has worked with Vetements and Adidas. “I was blown away by how nuts he is,” says Saunders, laughing. “He brings out a sense of humor in the models—as well as their femininity and sexuality.” Hadlee Pearch wouldn’t disagree.
“We’re bonkers, it’s chaos,” he says. “But that makes the results good.”
“It’s a jolly gang,” concurs the French stylist Camille Bidault-Waddington, who has been charged with putting her sexy Parisian spin on the collections. Bidault-Waddington had known Hillier for years and had worked with Lu at Victoria Beckham, but it was Saunders’s vision for the brand that ultimately attracted her.
“Jonathan wanted to do this strong, downtown, dancing, fun thing, and I loved that," she says. "I was like, ‘Oooh, let’s make this cool again!’"
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