Raf Steps Down: What it Means for Dior, the Designer, and His Successor

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Another designer leaves a major fashion house after only a short tenure. Raf Simons is unexpectedly out at Dior. I was initially astounded to hear this news, but the more I thought about it, it the more it made sense to me. He did beautiful things at Dior, but it never truly felt like he was comfortable there. You can see it in some the clothes, especially later on in his tenure – they’re ladylike, but feel cold and vaguely discomforted. Still, I’m surprised to see him leave so soon, especially after the publicity boost due to the recent release of Dior and I, the documentary charting the making of his first collection at the company.

Hopefully, this also means the end of Jennifer Lawrence as the face of the brand; a completely baffling pairing that benefits Lawrence’s personal brand, but hurts Dior’s. The house desperately needs to re-focus its brand identity, because as it is, they’re gunning to look like Giannini’s Gucci. Under Raf, Dior didn’t stand for anything – I don’t know who the customer is, or what kind of world she inhabits, because all of the advertising was restrained, empty, and faced by a bland big-time movie star — I had to get all of my information about the brand from the runway shows, which, admittedly, were stunning. The ads need to be a more sophisticated (but not boring) version of the vision so perfectly executed by their fragrance campaigns, especially Miss Dior and Dior Addict – French, ladylike, and daring.

What’s next for Raf? I wish he would go back to Jil Sander, an all-time favorite of mine that has crumbled since he left in 2012, but he won’t loop back around to the same company. He will focus on his own label, and perhaps another smaller line. I don’t ever see him returning to one of these mega-houses, even if the fashion cycle slows down to fewer collections per year.

But the even bigger question is who will replace Raf. Will Dior follow the current trend among big houses and pick an unknown? Perhaps, but that move would look trite after the recent Balenciaga appointment. I personally would love to see a woman at Dior. Cathy Horyn teased the possibility of Phoebe Philo on The Cut, which would be sublime; however I don’t think Philo would be willing to split her time between Céline and Dior, especially, as Horyn noted, because she has so much creative control over every aspect of Céline. Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski at Hermès might be a good choice, as would Stella McCartney, although I think, like Philo, McCartney is more invested in her own label at the moment. Kate and Laura Mulleavy would be a unexpected choice, but I think the sisters behind Rodarte are too media-shy to want to helm a major house like Dior. If I were Mr. Arnault, however, I would be pursuing Jonathan Anderson. He’s ultra-talented, young, a media darling, and not afraid of helming a big fashion house. It may be strategically savvy for Anderson to stay at Lowe, though, and build a mega name for himself, much like Philo did at Céline.

I’m sad to see Raf go — I was looking forward to see how he evolved as a designer at Dior. But in any case, I’ll be extremely interested to see who gets the appointment, and what they do with the brand. Stay tuned.

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