The Belgian designer Raf Simons was named as the next artistic director of Christian Dior. The post has been empty for more than a year since the dramatic departure of John Galliano in March 2011.
The Belgian designer Raf Simons was named late on Monday as the next artistic director of Christian Dior -- a post that had been empty for more than a year since the dramatic departure of John Galliano in March 2011.
"I feel fantastic," Mr. Simons said by telephone from his studio in Antwerp. "It is one of the ultimate challenges, and a dream to go to a place like Dior, which stands for absolute elegance, incredible femininity and utter luxury."
Mr. Simons, 44, began his career in men's wear in 1995 and went on to revitalize men's and women's lines at Jil Sander 10 years later.
Now he has been chosen by Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton to modernize Dior, the most classic of Parisian couture houses. In a statement, LVMH said that "Raf Simons' journey with the house of Dior will propel its iconic style into the 21st century."
Mr. Simons will be in charge of haute couture, women's ready-to- wear and accessories, starting with the couture show in July, while keeping his eponymous men's line.
Mr. Arnault and Sidney Toledano, Dior's chief executive, began searching for a new designer after Mr. Galliano was removed from the post because he had made anti-Semitic slurs in a bar in Paris.
Several designers said they had turned down the house, apparently seeing a post-Galliano role as a poisoned chalice.
The front runner, the American-born Marc Jacobs, design director of Louis Vuitton, decided to stay where he was. In the meantime, design direction at Dior was in the hands of Bill Gaytten, Mr. Galliano's former assistant. LVMH's financial figures for 2011 show that Dior's results were not affected.
Mr. Simons's name had been bandied about with other supposed contestants in recent months, particularly after his on-off courtship by the house of Yves Saint Laurent ended. The Dior appointment is being made as the designer Hedi Slimane, once a men's wear rival of Mr. Simons's, takes on the top job at Saint Laurent, the fashion house owned by PPR, a major LVMH rival.
The Christian Dior heritage began with the romantic Mr. Dior himself, a man who brought femininity to the postwar 1950s, building the tiny waists and sweeping skirts of his voluptuous "flower women" on his obsession with the Edwardian elegance of his early memories of his mother. He died suddenly in 1957 after only 10 years at the helm, to be followed by a young unknown, Yves Saint Laurent.
Mr. Simons's style could not be more different from that of the founder: He has a modernist vision and a spare, linear style based on fine tailoring. "My aim is a very modern Dior, but at the end of the day, I also look back," he said, referring to what he calls "mid- century modernism."
"I find that period between 1947 and 1957 extremely attractive, and there was a lot of modernity," Mr. Simons said of Christian Dior's designs. "There was the romantic appeal looking back to his mother and the belle epoque, but there was also a constant evolution in shape, changing proportions and the ideas connected to the World War were revolutionary."
Mr. Simons comes from the Flemish town of Neerpelt, the only son
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