NEW YORK TIMES | ELIZABETH PATON & VANESSA FRIEDMAN
PARIS — Brioni’s brief experiment with radical reinvention has ended. 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 men’s wear brand after just 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 mid-November, a Brioni spokesman said.
Mr. O’Shea, 37, the bearded and heavily tattooed former fashion director of the German e-commerce giant MyTheresa, who commands an avid street style following, had unveiled his debut designs for the house to just 95 guests during Paris Couture Week in July.
Despite generally positive reviews, the collection, full of slick, high-waisted 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 $4,900 off the rack). The New York Times critic Guy Trebay characterized the new mood as “Big Pimpin’.” Members of Metallica, hired by Mr. O’Shea as the new faces of the label, sat in the front row at the show, which culminated with a full-length chinchilla greatcoat right out of “Shaft.”
News of the unorthodox appointment three months earlier had shocked the industry, given Mr. O’Shea’s lack of formal training and studio experience. But Brioni, the Roman tailoring label owned by Kering that has long suited the superrich without being particularly fashion-forward, was looking to reinvent itself, and the hiring came as brands across the luxury sector are straining for innovative approaches in an ever more 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 Robert Burke, the founder of the luxury consulting firm that bears his name.
Just as surprising, however, was Mr. 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. The fashion world, in Paris for the women’s wear shows, was taken aback, not least because Mr. O’Shea has been a visible presence in the city this week, hanging out at the Ritz bar and Caviar Kaspia.
“One minute you’re sitting in Caviar Kaspia with Metallica and rivers of vodka; next minute there’s this curt news release,” said Ashley Heath, editorial director at the magazine Arena Homme+, who received an email with the news while at Vanessa Seward’s show. “It’s certainly bewildering.”
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.”
As to what might happen now — whether Brioni will retreat to the world of quiet good taste without a high-profile designer, or double down with another name — Mr. Burke said, “your guess is as good as mine.”
Gianluca Flore, the brand’s chief executive, was not available to comment, and Mr. O’Shea texted, “No comment.”