When former Artistic Director of Dior John Galliano was unceremoniously removed in the wake of some anti-Semitic comments he had made, most fashion industry insiders expected the famed Paris fashion house to move quickly in a search to replace him while staying ahead of the story from a public relations damage-control point of view. As the months wore on without a named replacement, some worried that the entire Dior line was being left rudderless too long. Now, finally in the mind of many, Dior has announced the successor will be Raf Simons and his first collection is already slated to be unveiled during July at the fall haute couture events.
The sixty-six year old luxury brand is now in good hands according to Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH, thanks to an exhaustive year long search that clearly put the long term success and style of Dior ahead of any short term social obstacles. Fashion icon Marc Jacobs, who has become the American star at competitor Louis Vuitton, was seen as an early favorite for the position but no deal could be reached during summer talks that fizzled at a time when Dior was looking to sparkle. Many other top names were considered, including notables Alber Elbaz of Lanvin but the loss of luster caused by former Director Galliano had tarnished the brand in ways that made it one the top names did not want to immediately step into. During October, Chief Executive, Sidney Toledano, Mr. Arnault and his daughter, Delphine Arnault, Deputy Director of Dior, entered into serious talks with Mr. Raf Simons instead.
Simons, 44, was with Jil Sander, and is credited by many for starting the trend toward bright colors that has washed over much of the affordable clothing market in recent memory. He was on the short list to take over at Yves Saint Laurent, in the past but was a dark-horse in the Dior race to say the least. During his time with Jil Sander their lines were known for a minimalist approach very different from the luxurious femininity that has made Dior legendary with fashionistas and top buyers during recent decades.
It would seem Dior is intentionally seeking to put their multi-billion dollar brand in the hands of someone completely different from the now cast aside Galliano. Galliano shamed Dior by being found guilty at a French tribunal in connection with hate crimes stemming from disorderly bar brawls. He told the court his memory was completely blank and blamed everything from job stress to a steady addiction of Valium and alcohol. On the other hand, Mr. Simons seems to be the clear opposite with a squeaky clean image
Simons was fired from Jil Sander after a show and replaced by the founder of the brand but the fashion world seemed to universally reject the notion that problems with the collection came from his involvement. Instead the fashion house was seen culpable for the collection and Simons emerged from the ordeal with an even more powerful persona.
Now the question remains. Can a straight-laced minimalist restore the reliability and pride in Dior’s corporate culture while simultaneously bringing forward a collection of luxurious designs that seem to be well outside his comfort zone? Dior is betting billions on Mr. Simons and the fashion world awaits the July reveal as one of the major moments of the 2012 calendar year. It could make or break Dior for years to come. Top Model will of course be covering it for you from the backstage previews to the catwalk excitement and beyond.