Raf Simons injects a sense of modernity
THE COOL, modernist lines and sober mien of Christian Dior’s new fashion director offer a clean break from the way out shows and wayward behaviour of his predecessor, but he faces a challenge to restore the legendary French couturier’s lustre.
Raf Simons, who comes from fashion house Jil Sander and leans toward clean, minimalist fashion, promises to offer a more restrained approach than John Galliano, who was fired for making anti-semitic remarks.
The blue button-down shirts and wool-blend sweaters Simons often favours contrast sharply with the artistic enfant terrible Galliano, who admitted drug and alchohol addiction and once caused uproar with a show based on the clothes of homeless people.
“Simons will inject Dior with a sense of modernity, poise and drama, making it relevant once again,” Harriet Quick, fashion features director of Vogue UK, said by email.
The search for a new designer, which in this case took more than a year, is never simple in part because fashion houses are looking for someone who can wed their own artistic vision with the history of the house.
Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld, for example, is revered because he manages to introduce leather pants and motorcycle jackets into his collection while retaining the spirit of Coco Chanel with white ribbing and the occasional quilted jacket.
Belgian Simons will be tasked with the same job at Dior, a house founded after World War II on the idea that women should deck themselves in reams of expensive fabric.
And while the connection between that and his minimalistic work at Jil Sander is not clear, fashion insiders pointed to the fact Simons’ recent work had a distinctly mid-century feel, exploring fifties and sixties Parisian styles.
This respect for the past could be enough to steer him through the first few years at Dior when a new designer has to find his footing and the critics can be merciless.
Simons, however, is facing huge pressure to perform in the knowledge that he was not first choice for the job. Dior conducted exploratory talks with more high-profile rivals ranging from Marc Jacobs, head designer at Louis Vuitton, to Alber Elbaz of Lanvin.
Also Middle Eastern and Asian buyers have become fond Galliano’s generous use of fabric and color and management is known to keep a close eye on artistic operations.
In February, when speculation about Galliano’s succession was still rife, Lagerfeld told reporters he did not envy the person who would be chosen to fill the former Dior star’s shoes.
Huge expectations, a meddling management style and a list of predecessors with enough star power to cast a shadow over any newcomer, no matter how well-established, made running Dior’s creative operations one of the toughest jobs in fashion, said Lagerfeld.
Lagerfeld, who was speaking during a day as guest editor for free newspaper Metro in Paris, had predicted Dior required a designer with the pulling power of a star.
The stakes are high because in many ways Christian Dior, part of the luxury goods empire of billionaire LVMH chief Bernard Arnault, has become the public face of the group.
While LVMH’s iconic Louis Vuitton brand accounts for more than half of its operating profit, it is the splashy Dior commercials featuring a rapidly disrobing Charlize Theron for which LVMH is increasingly known.
LVMH also makes much of its link to Dior’s haute couture line, noting in its annual report that customers’ association with haute couture, where dresses woven in silver and fur can cost more than $25,000 (£15,697.05), was vital to the sale of Dior perfumes.
“Dior is the jewel in the crown of the LVMH empire,” said Vogue’s Quick.
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