Grazia's Paula Reed gives her verdict on the Raf Simons for Christian Dior rumours

13 December 2011

KARLIE kloss in galliano's final show for dior.jpg

Karlie Kloss models a look from John Galliano's final Dior show

It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. Judging from the increasingly baroque fantasies that are swirling around the appointment of a successor to John Galliano at Dior I’d say that nothingness reduces fashion to abject misery. From the sound of persistent rumours swirling around the story, it seems that the only thing worse than a Christmas without the whiff of a designer at Christian Dior would be Christmas without Santa Claus.

A list of prospective designers that reads like the industry’s roll of honour has been in the rumoured hot seat ever since John Galliano’s dismissal in February. In the spotlight of speculation over the past few months have been Marc Jacobs, Riccardo Tisci,  Azzedine Alaia, Alber Elbaz, Tom Ford, Nicholas Gjesquiere and Sarah Burton. There have also been some wild cards and rank outsiders such as Christophe Decarnin and Alexander Wang that kept us amused for a while.

The latest is Raf Simons, who in September was said by the International Herald Tribune’s venerable Suzy Menkes to have been tapped as replacement for Yves Saint Laurent’s Stefano Pilati (who at the time didn’t seem to be aware that he was leaving). YSL denied it and Jil Sander were quick to say at the time that they had confirmed Simons’s contract for another four seasons.

What nobody seems to remember is a piece that Cathy Horyn wrote in her NY times blog in August proposing her own suggestions. First was Raf Simons who she praised for 'becoming a star at Jil Sander, despite having little experience in women’s fashion. He helped juice up the market with colour. And he knows how to build a design team — no small thing today.' Also on her shortlist was Sébastien Peigné, the women’s designer at Mugler. And our very own Christopher Kane, because ‘let’s face it, Mr. Kane needs a bigger stage for his imaginative fashion.’ So if the Simons rumour comes to nothing, I’d suggest Peigne and Kane are likely to loom large in early 2012.

Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons acknowledges the audience at the end of Jil Sander Spring-Summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection on September 24, 2011 during the Women's milan fashion week.

Raf Simons takes his bow at the end of the Jil Sander Spring / Summer 2012 show

Raf Simons rates highly on my all time list of favourite designers. His summer collection for Jil Sander is a triumph of cool, wearable femininity. His winter look, inspired by Hitchcock’s heroine’s is one of the chicest in stores right now. But I am having hard time reconciling his serene northern European sensibility with the Dior’s jolie madame. Compared to Raf’s minimalist sirens (think Tilda Swinton)  she is an altogether more hot blooded and more decorative creature.

It has always seemed to me that the atmosphere at Jil Sander favours the creative process whereas staffers have said the timetable at Dior is dictated by thecrushing commercial cycle. They also cite politics in the atelier, said by some to be ‘Borgian’.  It’s hard not to imagine that studio without the force of a titanic personality to steer it.Something jars when I think of the poetic presence of Raf Simons trying to impress the embroidered divas of Avenue Montaigne with a perfectly cut white shirt . But then, come to think of it, maybe a man who grew up close to Brussels would have the unique talents necessary for the complicated task.

by Paula Reed


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