On Wednesday, the Paris fashion house will announce that Raf Simons will take over immediately as artistic director, replacing John Galliano, who was fired from Dior last year after he made anti-Semitic remarks. His first collection is planned for July at the fall haute couture shows.
The choice of Mr. Simons culminates more than a year of discussions and apparent soul searching by Dior and its boss, Bernard Arnault, who is chairman of LVMH, about the ideal person to give creative direction to the 66-year-old luxury brand.In an interview Monday, Mr. Simons expressed delight at the appointment. “The first time I heard about the Dior position,” he said, “I thought, ‘This feels right.’ ”Marc Jacobs, the American star at Louis Vuitton, was a favorite until talks broke down late last summer, reportedly over compensation. Other big names, including Alber Elbaz of Lanvin, rejected Dior’s advances. Highly regarded or not, Dior seemed to have trouble finding someone.In October, its chief executive, Sidney Toledano, said the search could take months. A few weeks later he, Mr. Arnault and his daughter, Delphine Arnault, the deputy director of Dior, began talks with Mr. Simons.At the time Mr. Simons, 44, was at Jil Sander. But while Mr. Simons is influential, having started the trend for bright colors that has washed over much of the affordable clothing market, and was in discussions in 2010 with the French rival PPR about taking over Yves Saint Laurent, he was not widely seen as a candidate for Dior. His minimalist designs for Jil Sander seemed at odds with Dior’s ultra-femininity. And he is a low-key presence in a business that tends to love Barnum types.At his studio in Antwerp, where he has run a separate men’s wear business since the mid ’90s, he often answers the phone himself.Dior was founded on frivolous yards of expensive French silk as Europe lay in ruins from World War II. The shock of Christian Dior’s New Look, with its tiny waists and generous skirts, gave the house a reputation for excess, as well as a taste for headlines. In 1996, seeking to capitalize on that legacy, Mr. Arnault replaced the cerebral Gianfranco Ferré with a former British punk, John Galliano. He quickly ripped into Dior’s stodgy image — literally.