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Dior Names Raf Simons New Artistic Director

Godfrey Deeny
April 09th, 2012 @ 4:19 PM - Paris

The house of Christian Dior has chosen Belgian designer Raf Simons to be its new artistic director, ending over a year of speculation.

The news represents a remarkable turnaround for Simons, who quit his previous job as designer of Jil Sander, in a tear-filled departure after his final show for that house in Milan in late February.

"It is with tremendous excitement that the House of Dior is welcoming Raf Simons, one of today's greatest talents," Dior announced in a statement released Monday, April 9.

"Monsieur Dior's first collection radically changed the codes of elegance all over the world. Following the legacy of its founder, Raf Simons' journey with the house of Dior will propel its iconic style into the 21st Century," the Paris-based house added.

The announcement comes 14 months after Dior sacked its previous creative director John Galliano in January 2011 after an anonymous video of the English designer making anti-Semitic remarks went viral on the Internet.

Dior, which is controlled by Bernard Arnault, the chairman and key shareholder in LVMH, the world's largest luxury conglomerate, said Simons' title will be Artistic Director of women's Haute Couture, Ready-to-Wear and Accessory collections.

"It is with the utmost respect for its tremendous history, its unparalleled knowledge and craftsmanship that I am joining the magnificent house of Dior," Simons said in the same release.

"Mr. Christian Dior has always been for me the most inspiring couturier. Around the globe, the name Dior symbolizes the ultimate in elegance and refinement. I am truly humbled and honored to become Artistic Director of the most celebrated French house in the world," continued Simons.

The Belgian designer effectively succeeds Englishman Bill Gaytten, a former designer director of Galliano's who had ably filled in for the fired creator without, however, winning tremendous critical applause. Galliano has been absent since his dismissal, and is currently in rest and recuperation in his Paris apartment.

Simons, 44, has been a critically acclaimed designer for a decade and a half, initially taking the Paris menswear runway season by storm in the late '80s with his agitprop youth-quake street chic shows.

Given his fresh imagination and assured style, Simons' name had been bandied about as someone who could take over a major league fashion house.

Dior's CEO Sidney Toledano had apparently held a whole series of meetings with many more high-profile candidates including Marc Jacobs, designer of Dior's sister brand at Louis Vuitton, Alber Elbaz of Lanvin and Hedi Slimane, the former designer of Dior Homme. However, in the end, Dior plumped for an innovative designer known for his arty and cerebral approach to fashion.

The first Christian Dior Haute Couture collection created by Raf Simons will be presented in Paris in July 2012.

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