The Biggest Design Breakups of the Decade

From Sagmeister and Walsh to Apple and Ive to Marc and Louis, these are the splits that have marked the last 10 years of creativity.

Photo by Marco Scozzaro, Courtesy of Sagmeister & Walsh

We’d hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you haven’t already heard then it’s our duty to inform you that the design duo behind Sagmeister & Walsh—Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh—split after nearly a decade together earlier this summer.

The firm was most well known for its typographical art, collaborations, and creation of identities and for brands and individuals such as The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, David Byrne, The Jewish Museum, Levis, and many, many more. Unlike so many creative uncouplings, the pair seem to be heading to quite an amicable divorce, still working together on art projects such as “Sagmesiter & Walsh: Beauty”, while Walsh begins her own women-led creative agency, &Walsh, and Sagmeister pivots away from commercial work altogether.

Watching these two head down separate—if slightly overlapping—paths had us thinking back to all the recent splits in the design, art, architecture, and fashion sectors this decade. Suffice to say, the 2010s have been a bit of a bloodbath. See for yourself below.

Photo Courtesy Eleven Madison Park

Daniel Humm and Will Guidara
The masterminds behind Michelin Star restaurant Eleven Madison Park (above) called it quits after eight years of building their hospitality empire together last month. Outside of the famous restaurant, the couple were also known for the creation of Make Nice and The Nomad hotels. While rumors had been circulating long before the official announcement, the two stated that “different visions of the company long-term” was behind their inevitable split. Humm is now angling to buy out all Guidara’s shares of the firm as Guidara looks to move forward with his own hospitality company.

Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton
After decades of safe design, Louis Vuitton rolled the dice with New York wunderkind Marc Jacobs in 1997. The result was a period of unprecedented success and expansion for both. Indeed, both Jacobs and Louis Vuitton seem to have overextended themselves as creativity and profits plateaued and declined towards the end of their collaboration. In retrospect, their 2014 split appears a healthy, if very difficult, move for the designer and the luxury purveyor as Jacobs is now revitalizing his namesake brand and Louis Vuitton is exploring new avenues under creative director Nicolas Ghesquière.

Phillips de Pury & Co. and Simon de Pury
After almost two decades at the helm of the auction house, de Pury left the company in 2013 after a majority of his stock was bought out by Russian Mercury Group. Having been the public face, chairman, and head auctioneer of the auction house for so long, the company had come to take on his sensibilities, his preferences, particularly when it came to representing younger artists. Since the split, de Pury has been hosting galas, launched a new sales platform, and divorced his wife Michaela, leading to the close of their advising firm. Phillips de Pury & Co. has, without de Pury, become just Philips.

Photo Courtesy Ace Hotel

Commune Design and The Shamshiris
Founded in 2004 by Pam and Ramin Shamshiri, Roman Alonso, and Steven Johanknecht, Commune Design quickly rose to be one of the “big boy” design firms with work for Ace Hotels, Coach, Goop, Kiki de Montparnasse, Opening Ceremony, and the Standard Hotels. There’s little wonder it collected a Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design award in 2015. That same year, Pamela Shamshiri announced she was leaving the firm to work with Ramin, who had already left in 2014, to join Studio Shamshiri. Since the split, both companies have continued to thrive, Commune’s work on the Ace Hotel Chicago above and the Shamshiri’s efforts for New Orleans’ Maison de la Luz being prime examples.

Calvin Klein and Raf Simons
Calvin Klein and Raf Simons rather short dalliance came to an end in late 2018 after a mere two years. While serving as the first-ever chief creative officer for the American label, Simons rebranded the company’s high-end ready-to-wear line as CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC and redesigned their Madison Avenue flagship store among other bold steps. The Dior and Jil Sander veteran quit shortly after individuals from Calvin Klein’s parent company, PVH, critiqued his spending habits and vision. Now, the label is looking shutter the Madison Avenue location, their rename 205W39NYC, and follow a new creative direction. Simons, for his part, seems busy with his own namesake brand.

Jeffrey Deitch and MOCA
It was a welcome, if perhaps bittersweet, surprise when curator Jeffrey Deitch shuttered his beloved New York gallery and headed west and take over as the director of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. It was a somewhat less welcome surprise when his tenure ended only two years later after a series of squabbles and high-profile staff resignations. Since then, Deitch has gone bicoastal with his reopened space in Manhattan and a new site in Hollywood. MOCA, for its part, is inching toward stability and relevance under new director Klaus Biesenbach.

Photo Courtesy Apple

Jony Ive and Apple
The man behind the look of Apple’s iMacs, iPods, iPhones, iPads, watches and retail stores (above) parted with the company in June to begin his own independent design firm with regular collaborator Marc Newsom, LoveFrom. Apple’s Chief Design Officer for nearly 30 years, Ive first rose to prominence with his work on the genre-breaking 1998 iMac, becoming key to the company’s brand and public perception in the process. With the combination of Newson and Ive, LoveFrom will consult with Apple while serving brands such as Apple, Alessi, Louis Vuitton, Samsonite, and others.

Alber Elbaz and Lanvin
In the fall of 2015, French fashion powerhouse Lanvin fired longtime designer Alver Elbaz in an apparent effort to dig themselves out of financial woes. Over his 14 years at the helm, Elbaz turned the old luxury label into one of the top must-have brands and collected a stack of honors including the 2005 CFDA International Designer award and the Most Influential Designer award held by WGSN. Unfortunately for Lanvin, this departure hasn’t proved to be a net positive as its new collections, sans Elbaz, have been ill-received critically and financially. Elbaz, for his part, has since collaborated with perfumer Frédéric Malle and announced a partnership with Italian brand, Tod’s.

Michelle Ochs and Carly Cushnie
The relaxed, clean, and sexy fashion brand Cushnie Et Ochs saw co-founder Michelle Ochs exit the company in 2018 after a decade success with her partner Carly Cushnie. Her departure was followed by that CEO Peter Arnold, leaving Cushnie to take on the roles of sole design head and CEO of the brand. The split between the duo was mutual, apparently, but leaves a rift in the brand that became a favorite among a high-profile set that includes Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian, and Blake Lively.

Photograph courtesy of Carine Roitfeld.

Carine Roitfeld and Vogue Paris
From 2006 on, Roitfeld became known as the most daring fashion editor this side of Franca Sozzani for her leadership of Vogue Paris. She also came to represent the non plus ultra of European cool, something that had strong benefits for the brand overall. That said, she managed to create one too many controversies and found herself replaced with the less sensationalistic Emmanuelle Alt in 2011. To see what Roitfeld has been up to since, take a look at our feature on her.

Tina Lutz and Maria Patmos
The New York-based knitwear brand which designed for the well-traveled working woman broke apart in 2010 after a decade of acclaim and high-flying collaborations with the likes of Jane Birkin, Carine Roitfeld, and Christy Turlington. Though the brand saw national and global success—its wares were once featured in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum—it was personal issues between its founders that did the label in. Today, Marcia Patmos steers a namesake socially conscious brand of luxury sweaters, M. Patmos, while Tina Lutz has her own high-end German handbag company, Lutz Morris.

Richard Meier and Everyone
Starchitect Richard Meier has been more or less exiled from design society after the Pritzker Prize winner was accused by five women of sexual harassment. Meier is known for his white-palette buildings such as the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, the Four Seasons Private Residences at the Surf Club, the Getty Center in LA. At the peak of his career, Meier was as popular a name as Piano, Calatrava, and others of his generation. After the allegations, buildings, companies, brands, and friends disassociated themselves from the architect, making him a outcast in an industry he once dominated, as he should be.

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