Artistic Disposition: Who Are Creative & Art Directors?

If you’ve taken a keen interest in the workings of the fashion industry, you’ve probably heard the term creative or art director come up. You may be most familiar with the creative directors associated with fashion houses such as Karl Lagerfeld and Olivier Rousteing. But in this article, we’ll look at the directors who oversee the design and execution of concepts for photography and publications. Once we distinguish these careers that help to define the visual signature of a project, we will highlight just what attributes you’d need to fit into those very fashionable, high-paced and arduous shoes.

[Image: Mathew Guido]

The Creative Director

Also known as the ‘idea personnel’, they see the bigger picture when it comes to the fashion creative team dynamics. This kind of director oversees the development of the early phases of a project or concept. They take a marketing goal or artistic idea and develop the creative brief that will guide the overall implementation. It’s their job to not only ensure career development and that the client’s objectives are achieved, but also ensures that consumers are effectually reached.

[Image: Tiffany & Co. / Art Director, Editor: Paul Recalde]

Considered the leader of the creative team, they are the gate keeper between the client and the team; determining what work makes its way to the client or gets published. In circumstances, they have seniority over the photographer, copywriters, graphic designers, and even the art director as well. One simply doesn’t just become a creative director. Because of the level of responsibility they have over the results of the fashion initiative, they would need to be well-versed with the industry. Consequently, while education is a helpful first step, experience is a necessity.

[Image: Alex Prager for Garage Magazine]

The Art Director

If the Creative Director is in charge of generating the idea behind the project, the Art Director is the one that makes it a reality. Once the concept is finalised, they work with a production team to develop the aesthetics. Taking on this role does require some technical skills such as graphic or web design, photography, editorial, art or animation skills.

[Image: Andreea Retinschi]

These dexterities help to guide their decisions on what artistic elements will be utilised, as well as, exploited in the revision and editing process. Be it deciding on the design or photography, or creating budgets and deadlines, they determine the best way to give the creative director their concept. Just like the creative director, having some years of experience from relevant fields are required for the position.

[Image: Ben Lamberty]

What it takes…

They both are required to have technical skills that relate to the field to better express what they want achieved. Additionally, the require a inventive mind that compliments their passion for style to visually manifest their ideas. Furthermore, the following proficiencies are essential for them to succeed at their roles:

  • Artistic faculty – Deemed to be the most essential skill for directors in the fashion industry, it aids them in developing novel visions that appeal to their clients and customer base. Moreover, their execution remains true to their overall message.
  • Communication – Their ideas are only as good as their ability to get them across to their teams. Using the rights sketches, working and presentation, they can guide their creative teams to manifest their visions. Additionally, it aids in their collaborative endeavours that they’d need to partake in within the fashion industry.
  • Fashion experience – It’s not just about pursuing a higher education in Fashion. These directors have a portfolio of works and professional recommendations that reflect their diverse knowledge about the industry.

[Image: Vogue Korea]

  • Leadership – Working with teams requires strong decision-making skills. They take charge and have the final words on details that make the cut. Not only do they organise the team, but they are also tasked in motivating them throughout the creation course.
  • Managerial strengths – Apart from the teams of personnel that they must manage, they require some business savviness. That includes elements such as managing timeliness, to crafting budgets and bringing about profits.

[Image: Daniel Riera]

  • Networking – It’s no secret that in fashion, it’s all about who you know. These directors have built relationships in multiple areas of the industry. Knowing mentors and leaders in the industry not only get you the job, but ensure your projects come to fruition in an all-rounded way.
  • Promotion and branding – Fashion has become so intertwined with social media that these directors must possess some online savviness. From understanding how social media marketing works to building impressive personal brands and following, having the inside scoop on branding is a major asset for them.


Gangs of New York [Image: Mario Testino]

Whether you want to be a creative or art director, or perhaps you decide to wear both hats (it happens), it’s a crucial responsibility in creating the all-important story behind the fashion scenes. It’s your abilities in this role(s) that can lead to fashion-forward success or end in absolute failure. Setting the creative tone of a project is far from uncomplicated, but it’s a high-profile career whose end-results are certainly worthwhile.

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