The fashion world was rocked on October 22nd by the announcement on that Raf Simons would be stepping down as Creative Director Christian Dior. Dior’s CEO confirmed the move and thanked him for his “exceptional contribution to the house”. Simons wanted to ensure we knew the decision was based on personal reasons, and he said: “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 of my work.”
His departure comes only three and a half years into his designer tenure and the “ready-to-wear” show he presented in Paris for Spring/Summer 2016 is his last for the fashion house. Now he will launch himself into supporting his own eponymous menswear brand and the search for his replacement is underway.
Simons has been at the helm of Dior since April 2012 and he gave his first couture show in July of that year. The likes of Marc Jacobs, Donatella Versace, and Diane von Furstenberg gathered to see his work. The show took place in Paris’ 16th Arrondissement hôtel particulier. In a move which he echoed in his last ever show for Dior, the walls were plastered with millions of fresh flowers and under intense scrutiny, as Simon’s appointment followed John Galliano’s unceremonious dismissal. After this one show however it was apparent that Simons and Dior would fit together seamlessly. He showed that he understood the essence of Dior whilst bringing a whole new spin to the label. Vogue described it, at the time, as “modern, clean and unexpected”. The collection was elegant, feminine and totally new. He paired cigarette trousers with bustier dresses and pointed shoes with pastel colour palettes. Unsurprisingly, twitter erupted as soon as the curtains went down on his debut.
His time as new-comer was documented in “Dior and I”, a sensitive portrayal of the challenges he faced with such a pivotal role. Against these, the 47-year-old showed everyone he would be the one to watch.
Since those humble but mould-shattering beginnings, Simons has been granted worldwide acclaim, with each of his shows since being hotly anticipated. Sales under him grew (about 60% from 2011, according to Vogue.com) because he made the clothes so effortlessly wearable.
Even though he was so against theatrical and unwearable clothes, he wasn’t one for minimalism in his sets, and his floral catwalks are now infamous. Following on from his first flower filled set, he was responsible for some of the outstanding catwalks seen in Paris, such as the psychedelic greenhouse of Spring 2014 and up to his last show, where the Louvre was adorned with a pile of delphiniums. He is also responsible for taking the show to the French Riviera for a Cruise show staged inside the futuristic ‘bubble palace’ and a sumo wrestling arena in Tokyo.
He proved himself to be a perfect fit for the Parisian label, by rejuvenating it and bringing back to the forefront of the fashion sphere.
He redefined Dior’s campaigns, bringing in Rihanna, their first woman of colour, and other revolutionary women like Jennifer Lawrence.
He refined their codes and with his own spin on the bar jacket, those double pearl earrings, and perspex heels he created his own cult of codes, which travelled all the way down to the high street.
Memorable red-carpet moments were made with stars draped in his designs, and no one will forget how great Jennifer Lawrence looked in a full-skirt Dior gown when she tripped up the stairs collecting her ‘Best Actress’ Oscar in 2013. Emma Watson paraded the 2014 golden globes in cigarrete trousers, which couldn’t be dressed up in a better way than by Simons.
There has been some speculation around his swift departure from Dior. He showed 6 collections a year and The Cut’s Cathy Horyn suggested this meant he “was frustrated by the lack of time to create,”
This is echoed by Vogue, as Nicole Phelps wrote: “Simons’ abrupt departure will undoubtedly spark renewed talks about the difficulties of overseeing a brand of Dior’s size and the almost inhuman demands of the current fashion cycle.”