Designers Who Successfully Broke Into New Industries

Art is inherently interconnected with other creative multidisciplinary industries. Modern artists, designers, and product innovators often make a name for themselves in one industry only to leave for another. The background of an architect or sculptor may lend itself to the skills needed in interior design while a fashion designer may move to the world of beauty and cosmetics as an extension of their own fashion labels. Some of fashion industry’s biggest names — Tom Ford, the late Virgil Abloh and Casey Cadwallader had their start in architecture before making their way into fashion design. However, this is a list compromising creatives who chose to depart from the success of their previous industries into a completely different category altogether.

Francisco Costa

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Fashion to beauty

After a 13-year tenure as creative director of Calvin Klein Collection’s womenswear line, Francisco Costa’s minimal aesthetic and distribution colour palette won the designer critical acclaim. However, in April 2016, Costa departed from Calvin Klein as part of a “new global creative strategy”, unifying all Calvin Klein brands under one creative vision. The exit was not due to his own volition but rather as a consequence to Calvin Klein’s own expansion strategies. Following his departure from the American brand and a six-month hiatus, Costa headed up his own beauty line Costa Brazil, starting with a body oil and face oil which he revealed in early 2019. 

Daniel Arsham

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Image courtesy of Zander Taketomo for Tiffany & Co.

Artist to fashion

Daniel Arsham is an American artist and sculptor who first broke into the fashion industry with his collaboration with Kim Jones for the Dior Summer 2020 collection. He then entered the Pokémon universe with the “The Tiffany & Arsham Studio & Pokémon capsule collection”. Arsham’s Pokémon-inspired sculptures are rendered as an array of special-edition jewellery creations, each brought to life through the art of Tiffany craftsmanship. More recently, Arsham’s Objects IV Life collection unveiled during an off-schedule showing at Paris Fashion Week saw the artist showcase contemporary workwear “using deadstock fabrics to reimagine perennial style staples”.

Matthew Williamson

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Image courtesy of John Lewis

Fashion to interior design

Succeeding Christian Lacroix, Matthew Williamson served as creative director at Pucci from 2006 to 2008. Williamson would go on to receive the Red Carpet Designer of the Year Award at the British Fashion Awards. Despite the success of Emilio Pucci during his tenure, the bosses at Pucci were not happy that Matthew was dividing his time between the UK and Italy creating the womenswear collections for both the Matthew Williamson and Pucci companies. Critics also drew design comparisons with Williamson and Pucci while ultimately resulted in the designer pivoting into the homewares market in the 2010s. Now Williamson has moved to the world of interior design with a series of homeware collections in collaboration with John Lewis, Pooky, Roome London, Obeetee and more.  

Kelly Wearstler

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Image courtesy of Trevor Tondro (Architectural Digest)

Interior design to fashion

With her academic training in interior, architectural and graphic design, Kelly Wearstler was already a renowned interior designer with a reputation for expansive collections of lifestyle product designs. Wearstler expanded her creative endeavours to include fashion when she launched her eponymous clothing line. Her sartorial selections are known for their bold prints and unique designs, painterly fabrics, and rich texture that mimics the “easy elegance of classic California cool” seen in her interior design. Her foray into fashion was her branching into the fashion industry after establishing herself in the realm of interior design.

Jonathan Adler

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Ceramics to interior design to fashion

Jonathan Adler launched his namesake brand after leaving his day job to pursue his first love: pottery. He would release his first ceramics collection in 1993 for Barneys New York, and in 1998 he opened his first store in Soho. In 2009, Adler was tapped to design a real-life Malibu Dream House in honour of Barbie’s 50th and by 2011, he had released a series of limited edition Lacoste polo shirts, demonstrating the synergy between fashion and interior design. 2016 saw Adler join Fisher Price as the toy brand’s creative director where he once again demonstrated his penchant for bold colours and whimsical designs. Adler’s departure was primarily from a series of creative pursuits over a push for financial profit.

Tory Burch

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Photo: Courtesy of Tory Burch

Fashion to fragrances

She launched her eponymous label in 2004 and by 2013 the company had expanded to include 83 stores across the globe and her collections were carried by more than 1,000 stores including Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. In 2010, she launched a collection of sunglasses that is still carried in Nordstrom and Saks. In addition to fashion, Burch expanded her brand into beauty with a line of fragrances and cosmetics in 2013, showcasing her ability to diversify her creative endeavors. The line included a range of beauty products that included a colour cosmetics collection comprised of lipstick, cheek tint, bronzer, and blush followed by a bath and body line. Why did she make the move to include accessories and fragrances? Purely because she could and it was simply the natural extension of her multi-million dollar lifestyle brand. This was the foundation of Tory Burch as a multicategory beauty company.

Patrick Cox

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Shoes to psychedelic clothing

Patrick Cox built his brand as a shoe designer with his square-toed “Wannabe” loafer being regarded as the quintessential footwear of the ’90s disco scene. In 1984, he designed shoes for Vivienne Westwood’s “Clint Eastwood” collection. The once-successful eponymously-named company he founded would soon face decline over a series of complex issues including overexpansion and a creeping feeling of burnout. An investor took over, and Cox left in 2007 and moved to Ibiza in 2017 after selling his luxury London home. It was in Ibiza where Cox eventually founded his own “consciousness-raising” clothing brand dubbed “Doors of Perception Ibiza”. The brand is founded on sustainability but also follows Cox’s own psychedelic awakening and his discovery of entheogenic substances. As stated on his Doors of Perception Ibiza’s website, Cox writes “now, emerging from my psychedelic cocoon, I feel reborn with a new sense of purpose: to lead a simpler life in harmony with nature”.

Read More: Luxury property in London: Shoe designer Patrick Cox sells Little Venice villa for £2.75 million

Aerin Lauder

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Aerin Lauder is an acclaimed businesswoman known for her role at the Estée Lauder Companies. Lauder founded the luxury fragrance brand AERIN Beauty which was heavily inspired by Lauder’s own signature style and aesthetic point of view. As of 2019, she owned 16 million shares in the Estée Lauder Companies. In addition to her work in beauty, Lauder has expanded her brand into the world of home decor creating a new global luxury lifestyle brand offering collections of furniture, lighting, and accessories. Aerin Lauder’s eponymous luxury lifestyle brand is based on the premise that “living beautifully should be effortless” with Aerin’s own lifestyle serving as a focal point of inspiration for the brand. Her transition into interior design reflects her power over understanding and honing in on her personal branding and leveraging her own tastes into a profit-making company. For Lauder, her departure from beauty was neither from necessity or necessarily from expansion. It was simply because she could.

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