NEW YORK • In its second major creative upheaval in the last five years, Christian Dior, the Parisian couture house that is the cornerstone of the LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton luxury empire, announced onThursday that artistic director Raf Simons was leaving the brand. No replacement has been named.
According to a statement from Simons, who is also the founder of a namesake menswear brand based in Antwerp, Belgium, the decision was “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”.
Mr Sidney Toledano, chief executive of Christian Dior Couture, and Mr Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH, thanked Simons for “his exceptional contribution”.
That contribution centred not only on his ability to take the heritage couture house into the 21st century, constantly updating classic shapes such as the Bar jacket with contemporary materials and silhouettes, but also on a sense of personal renewal he brought to the brand after the bruising and very public firing of former creative director John Galliano for anti-Semitic comments in 2011.
“Raf was the calm after the storm,” said Ms Marigay McKee, a luxury consultant and ex-president of Saks Fifth Avenue. “I am really shocked. It was going so well.”
Just weeks earlier, another well-known designer, Alexander Wang, produced his last collection for a rival Parisian house, Balenciaga.
As rivals elsewhere found themselves grappling with a Chinese economic slowdown and foreign exchange volatility, consumer enthusiasm for the Dior brand appeared to grow unabated, something repeatedly attributed by executives to the vision of Simons.
From July 1 to Sept 30, Christian Dior Couture revenue rose by 5 per cent at constant exchange rates to €471 million (S$730 million), compared with the same quarter last year. For the most recent full financial year ended June 30, revenue at Christian Dior Couture was up 18 per cent at €1.77 billion.
The news came as a surprise, as it has been only a few weeks since Simons’ well-received Dior spring 2016 womenswear collection at the Louvre. He was not seen as unhappy in his post, though his contract had expired in May and discussions had been taking place since then, according to sources.
Simons reportedly felt stymied by his lack of ability to affect the shape of the brand beyond the collections – he was unable, for example, to redesign the stores – though he was also known to have a particularly amicable relationship with Mr Toledano.
Speculation now centres on who will be named the next Dior creative director and a search has just begun. The next pre-fall collection will be designed by the in-house team and shown in January in Paris.
NEW YORK TIMES