Well, this is a surprise: After three-and-a-half years at the helm of Dior, Raf Simons has announced he’s parting ways with the label.
According to Dior (via WWD), the designer “reached this decision for personal reasons,” and the spring-summer 2016 collection he presented in Paris on October 2 was his last. The 47-year-old designer released a statement about the departure on Thursday:
“It is after careful and long consideration that I have decided to leave my position as creative director of Christian Dior’s women’s collection. 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 my work. Christian Dior is an extraordinary company, and it has been an immense privilege to write a few pages of this magnificent book. I want to thank Mr. Bernard Arnault for the trust he has put in me, giving me the incredible opportunity to work at this beautiful house surrounded by the most amazing team one could ever dream of. I have also had the chance over the last few years to benefit from the leadership of Sidney Toledano. His thoughtful, heartfelt, and inspired management will also remain as one of the most important experiences of my professional career.”
Simons took over at the storied French fashion label in 2012, following John Galliano‘s very public departure in 2011. Insiders were naturally curious how the designer would would marry the chic, minimalist aesthetic he’d cultivated at Jil Sander with the opulence and history of the house of Dior.
We got our answer from his very first ready-to-wear show in September 2012: tailored pant suits, simple silhouettes rendered in lavish fabrics, and above all, a clean brand of femininity that has carried over into each collection since, making Dior not only a hit with fashion fans and celebrities but also with critics, who have been effusive in describing Simon’s work (the New York Times called the new Dior “a triumph of 21st-century modernism,” and Style.com dubbed Simon’s first collection “the show of the week … probably the show of the season.”)
Although his designs were clean and feminine, Simons also proved he was able to break new ground and push boundaries, evidenced by the casting of Rihanna in the label’s Secret Garden campaign earlier this year, making the pop star the first black woman to be the face of the Parisian house.
The beauty of that particular campaign? It made perfect sense. Rihanna was allowed to be herself (red lipstick, long talons, revealing fur dress) while posing in the Palace of Versailles. As the Guardian pointed out: “Here is a woman who loves and wears her fashion at the edgy side of dressed-up, exactly the place where Raf Simons’s Dior sits. An alliance between the two isn’t a lazy meeting of celebrity and brand—it’s one that makes sense. More please.”
Needless to say, whoever takes over has some pretty big shoes to fill, so it’ll be interesting to see who gets the job.