Fashion news doesn’t get much more pressing than Raf Simons’ unexpected departure from Dior, announced today, particularly in an otherwise quiet stretch, following a month of spring collections. “It is a decision,” he wrote in a press statement, “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.”
Not that a statement will stop industry tongues from wagging. Some say Simons was unhappy with his lack of control over huge swaths of the house’s image, namely store design and advertising, and left of his own accord. Others say Simons exited — or felt pressure to exit? — because of lackluster sales (never mind impressive financial figures constantly waved around), particularly in Asia, unlike his counterpart at Dior Homme. They point to the couture line as a particular washout for the maison, which came to rely more and more on accessories to buoy its bottom line.
Inevitably, some of the same voices who hailed Simons’ hiring are now claiming it was doomed from the beginning. But while Simons steered the helm of the label only three and a half years, he delivered no fewer than 20 collections. Pumping out that many high-stakes shows in a short amount of time suggests he simply stopped enjoying it — hence, a renewed focus on outside passions. The next Dior collection, pre-fall 2016, will be designed in-house.
So, what happens now? One persistent rumor has Simons going to Calvin Klein, unseating its current designer, Francisco Costa, who may be headed to Armani, of all places. While it would be an extraordinary move, stranger things have happened. Meanwhile, back at Dior, where company brass no doubt longed for stability after the volatile exit of John Galliano, it’s thought — perhaps wishfully — that Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, another LVMH brand, may take the reins. Another name being bandied about is Céline’s Phoebe Philo. Before Simons’ hiring, other marquee names in contention included Marc Jacobs, Alber Elbaz, and Sarah Burton. Get ready for a winter, and possibly spring and summer, full of surprises.