He had a hit documentary film made about his work (“Dior and I”), dominated the red carpet by dressing nearly ever celebrity on the planet, nabbed Rihanna to be the face of the brand and staged runway shows with so many fresh flower blooms, they crashed the floral market in Europe.
But it wasn’t enough to keep Raf Simons at the house of Dior.
On Thursday, Christian Dior Couture and Simons announced that after 3 1/2 years as creative director of women’s collections, he will not renew his contract with the luxury label. The spring 2016 collection Simons presented Oct. 2 during Paris Fashion Week will be his last for the house.
“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,” Simons, 47, said in a statement.
It’s expected that he will continue to produce his own namesake men’s collection, based in Antwerp.
Simons, a Belgian, started in furniture design then launched his own menswear label in 1995. He designed women’s wear for Jil Sander from 2005 to 2011. In April 2012, after being appointed creative director at Dior, in the wake of John Galliano’s scandalous departure, he had just two months to complete his first haute couture collection. That journey was documented in the film “Dior and I,” which opened this past spring.
From the start, as seen in the film, Simons seemed ill at ease with some of the demands of being the figurehead at the top of an LVMH-owned global luxury brand. Notoriously press-shy, he gave few interviews and did not spend time hobnobbing with Kardashians like, say, Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing or Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci.
At Dior, Simons was a mad scientist, pushing new and modern ideas about dressing such as chopped-off ball gowns worn over pants, ball skirts worn with crewneck sweaters, tailored jackets with sneaker lacing and hand-embroidered, couture sneakers. And his collections, where sport often met couture, presaged the current athleisure shift in women’s wardrobes.
Dior’s double-pearl, Tribal earrings became a big trend on Simons’ watch. But he never had a hit bag, and his shoes often were difficult to walk in. Still, sales growth was not an issue for the brand.
So maybe Simons really is leaving Dior to look for the next creative challenge, away from the churning cycle of blockbuster, mega-brand fashion shows and the rarified world of haute couture.
His cultish, streetwear-inspired Raf Simons men’s line and his sneakers made in collaboration with Adidas have been incredibly influential for Kanye West, ASAP Rocky and so many others on the music style scene. And arguably, with the recent appointment of Vetements designer Demna Gvasalia as artistic director at Balenciaga, streetwear is where it’s at.
Simons couldn’t be more perfectly positioned for a bright future.
For the latest in fashion and style news, follow me @Booth.