The long search for a successor to designer John Galliano at Christian Dior may finally be over. Belgian designer Raf Simons, who has been widely acclaimed for his collections at the house founded by Jil Sander, is leaving Sander.
A statement confirmed that Sander and Simons “agreed that the designer will step down from his position” of creative director. The announcement has thrown the fashion industry into a whirlwind of conjecture, and the prime talking point is where Simons, is headed to now.
Late last year, it was reported that Christian Dior, considered one of fashion’s hottest design talents, was in talks with Simons to take over the role of creative director, which has been vacant since Galliano’s downfall, last February. Simons began his career as a furniture designer in Antwerp before moving to menswear and then womenswear.
His is a modernist and minimalist sensibility which would represent a leap for Dior, where the codes of the house are inseparable from the folklore of Parisian femininity. But Simons has recently explored the Dior aesthetic in a series of uncharacteristically ladylike shows which he dubbed his “couture trilogy”, suggesting that he might be open to the possibility of a move to Dior. To Dior, such a clean break with the past might appeal after a traumatic year.
Others in the industry believe that Simons could be heading to Yves Saint Laurent, where tension between the label and the designer Stefano Pilati has long been rumoured.
Theorists in this camp point to the natural synergy between the house that bears the name of the late Yves Saint Laurent, who was strongly influenced by menswear, and Simon’s designs. The two Parisian labels are owned by fierce rivals — Christian Dior by LVMH, and Yves Saint Laurent by PPR — either of which would consider the recruitment of the rising star Simons to their stable a coup.
Forty three-year-old Simons’ last show for Sander tomorrow will take place on the first anniversary of the beginning of the Galliano affair, but a more pertinent timing issue may relate to Sunday’s Academy Awards.
Last year, the winner of the Best Actress title, Natalie Portman, who had been scheduled to wear a Dior gown, switched to the Rodarte label in light of the scandal. Should either Christian Dior or Yves Saint Laurent announce a new designer before Sunday, this could prove persuasive in the hearts-and-minds battle for red-carpet dominance.
Jil Sander has indicated that the label will announce Simons’ successor in the next few days. The German magazine Gala has reported that Jil Sander herself, who founded the company in 1968 but left eight years ago, could be poised to make a comeback.