Raf Simons parts ways with Christian Dior, ending a beautiful three-and-a-half year collaboration that saw the traditional French Maison move towards a more modernist direction. His exits from opens fierce speculations about who might inherit one of the most prestigious fashion posts in Europe, arguably only second in prestige to Chanel, the largest couture house in Paris. The separation announcement, issued after the close of trading on the Paris Bourse, is sure to send shock waves through the industry.
Not long ago, just before Dior’s Oct. 2 show, Simons told the press “I’m questioning a lot”, referring to the pace of fashion today and the overheated runway system that has reached a volatile tipping point. “I feel a lot of people are questioning. We have a lot of conversation about it: Where is it going? It’s not only the clothes. It’s the clothes, it’s everything, the Internet.”
Dior said the designer “reached this decision for personal reasons” and that the spring-summer 2016 collection he presented in mountain of flowers amidst the courtyard of the Louvre on Oct. 2 was his last.
Simons gave the following statement on the separation:
“It is after careful and long consideration that I have decided to leave my position as creative director of Christian Dior’s women’s collection, “It is a decision based entirely and equally on my desire to focus on other interests in my life, including my own brand, and the passions that drive me outside my work. Christian Dior is an extraordinary company, and it has been an immense privilege to write a few pages of this magnificent book. I want to thank Mr. Bernard Arnault for the trust he has put in me, giving me the incredible opportunity to work at this beautiful house surrounded by the most amazing team one could ever dream of. I have also had the chance over the last few years to benefit from the leadership of Sidney Toledano. His thoughtful, heartfelt and inspired management will also remain as one of the most important experiences of my professional career.”
Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior SA, and Toledano, ceo of Christian Dior Couture, said they “acknowledge Raf Simons’ decision and very warmly thank him for his exceptional contribution to the house.” None of the three men commented beyond the one-page statement.
His successor at Dior has yet to be identified. Industry sources describe the separation is amicable on both sides after the designer and the company failed to reach agreement on a new employment contract. What his next move is going to be, is not clear yet, and sources indicated he may be restrained from joining another fashion house for some time due to a non-compete clause in his initial contract — commonplace for senior design posts. However, Simons has an eponymous fashion house, specialising in men’s wear and he is expected to continue showing that collection in Paris.
Raf Simons’ official title at Dior was artistic director of women’s haute couture, ready-to-wear and accessory collections. Another Belgian designer, Kris Van Assche, has helmed men’s wear at Dior since 2007. Simons emerged as a frontrunner for the Dior job after talks with Marc Jacobs, then creative director at sister company Louis Vuitton, failed to produce a deal. Simons was Dior’s sixth couturier. Successors to the founder – who ignited post-war Paris with his extravagant, full-skirted New Look, and whose brief career ended with his death in 1957 – also included Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan and Gianfranco Ferré. Today’s news is the second shock exit at Dior in recent years, after the designer John Galliano was discharged in 2011, having been filmed making anti-Semitic remarks while inebriated in a Paris bar.
Header Image by Team Peter Stigter.