Through the Fire: 3 Fashion Designers Who Came Back from Failure

Everyone faces failures at some point in life. There are no exceptions, even those who are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Social status and financial standings too aren’t enough to shelter someone from the grasp of failure.

A lack of success is a never ending presence which looms on the back of everyone, rich or poor, famous or not. Whether in different fields or disciplines, breakdowns are an inevitable part of life and existence itself.

Dropping from the heights of success to the lowest grounds of failure is painful, and not all can take it. In the world of fashion where the stakes are high, a famous person can go from cloud nine to rock bottom in a matter of days. Here are some of those designers who weathered it all and defied their fates.

Marc Jacobs

“We’ve been bankrupt, we’ve been fired,” he said. “We didn’t hang up our hat.”

A staple in today’s fashion industry, Marc Jacobs wasn’t always the biggest draw on the big fashion catwalks and circuits. Being successful straight out of schooling, Marc Jacobs won the Perry Ellis Gold Thimble in 1984. Not only winning a prestigious award, but he also holds the distinction of being the youngest to have won such an award.

His greatest blunder turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In 1992, Marc Jacobs began designing for fashion elite Perry Ellis. Jacobs with his unique personality and preferences debuted a grunge collection that utilized boots from Doc Marten and plaid shirts. His works received negative reviews that were enough for Perry Ellis to fire him from his job.

From the fashion perspective, Marc Jacobs was already dead. However, Louis Vuitton saw small signs of life and decided to name him as creative director. Since then, Marc Jacobs never look back, as Louis Vuitton skyrocketed him back to fame. Today, Marc Jacobs isn’t just a staple. He’s also an innovator.

Alexander McQueen

“Give me time, and I’ll give you a revolution.”

Before his failure at Dior, Alexander McQueen was the creative director at Givenchy. In his debut show, his dramatic designs were mockingly called a failure. His designs gave the elites of the fashion world a shock.

Alexander McQueen took all the negatives in, even accepting and calling his previous work as “crap.” He then made a comeback just five weeks after his failed debut at London, where he presented his eponymous collection. It became an instant success, and since then he became one of the most sought-after designers in the fashion industry.

Known as the King of Gothic beauty and darkness, Alexander McQueen continues to make strides in the fashion world even after his untimely death in 2010. After experiencing a lot of failures, Alexander McQueen is the epitome of perseverance and tenacity.

Hedi Slimane

“I’m most interested in that moment when my entire perspective changes, and I have to reconsider everything.”

Hedi Slimane’s tenure in YSL or Yves Saint Laurent wasn’t always a cakewalk. Way back in 2012, Hedi Slimane and the PR team of YSL made a lot of arguments on whether to drop the “Yves” from the trademark company name.

As the name change met a lot of negative looks within the enterprise, Hedi Slimane’s California Rock themed work did not provide any spark or interest within the YSL because it was too far out from the group’s signature jackets. Reviews from the media also weren’t confident as they also viewed the collection as a failure.

His collection would bar the press from seeing his collection up close, but instead, his closest friends owned the front row. This move proved sour for some media outlets and considered him as “nothing new” or “overrated.”

Since then, differences of the name change fixed itself internally, and Hedi Slimane learned to mend his relationship with the media. His presence within YSL is similar to PB and J (Peanut Butter and Jelly), the perfect marriage between company and director. Now his collections are met with an excitement every season.


Hedi Slimane, Marc Jacobs, and Alexander McQueen prove that even death cannot prevent people from breaking free from the chains of failures.  With enough dedication and tenacity, a person can come back from failure even in the direst of situations.

The designers mentioned above just show how failure affects everyone. In the world of high stakes fashion where one mistake is the same with death, failure is a particularly terrifying aspect within. Although failure is not always art of the success equation for everyone, it’s important that you know where and who to look up when you’re down or uncertain, take your cue from French Connection for example, the epitome of success for fashion retail online.