Dior names Raf Simons as new artistic director

By Elaine Ganley

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 9 2012 1:30 p.m. MDT

FILE - Belgian designer Raf Simons acknowledges the applause of the audience at the end of the Jil Sander Spring/Summer 2012 women's collection in Milan, in this Saturday, Sept. 25, 2011 file photo. Christian Dior on Monday April 9 2012 named Belgian designer Simons as its new artistic director, and says he'll present his first show for the renowned fashion house in Paris in July. The appointment comes seven months after star designer John Galliano was convicted by a Paris court for making anti-Semitic insults.

Giuseppe Aresu, file, Associated Press

PARIS — Christian Dior has named Belgian designer Raf Simons as its new artistic director, seven months after star designer John Galliano was convicted by a Paris court for drunken anti-Semitic ravings.

Simons will present his first show for the renowned fashion house in July, according to Monday's announcement of his appointment by the prestigious fashion house.

Galliano was dismissed by Dior in March 2011, days before its fall-winter runway show, after a video went viral on the Internet showing the bad-boy designer inebriated and insulting a fellow client at a Paris cafe, slurring "I love Hitler," among other incendiary remarks.

The 44-year-old Simons, who designed for Jil Sander and has had his own menswear collection, was a top name among candidates for the job.

A statement by Dior said Simons will serve as artistic director for haute couture, ready-to-wear and women's accessories. It praised him as "one of the greatest current talents" and said he will "inspire and propel into the 21st century" the style carried on by the prestigious house since its creation in 1946.

"I am thrilled to join this great house ...," the statement quoted Simons as saying. "The house of Dior is the symbol of absolute elegance."

Simons, who took the helm of the Jil Sander label in 2005, was clearly preparing for this moment with his February shows in Paris then Milan — his last for Jil Sander. At his Milan finale, he shed tears and took a second curtain call after ovations and a spontaneous invasion of the runway.

Fashionistas will clearly be glad to have him back, this time at a house with deep roots in a venerable fashion institution. After its founding in 1946, Dior presented its first collection a year later.

The interim design leadership at Dior came from Bill Gaytten and was safe and serviceable, but likely not enough to sustain Dior's buzz and prestige.

With the announcement, Dior can close for good the painful chapter of the Galliano affair.

Galliano was convicted in September of "public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity" but not given a prison term or forced to pay a fine, imposed but suspended.

At the trial, the once prideful designer humbly explained he had a "triple addiction" — to alcohol, barbiturates and sleeping pills — and said he recalled nothing. He said he was sorry for "the sadness that this whole affair has caused."

In testimony before the court in proceedings in June, Galliano said he didn't recall anything.

Where Galliano had showmanship and flair — sometimes outrageous — Simons tends to be more restrained. He took the helm at Jil Sander when the faltering label was looking for a designer who could push the line further without abandoning the minimalist trademark of the founder, who had since left the company.

Simons began with a black and white womenswear collection. His evolution there culminated several seasons ago in a burst of color that dazzled the fashion world.

The winter 2013 show, presented on the fourth day of Milan Fashion Week on Feb. 25 was his last as creative director for the label, and described as feminine soft.

Simons has much support in the industry. His designs have increasingly becoming a bellwether for trends. Lately, his clothes gained support in fashion magazines, and the Jil Sander show became a must-have ticket during the Milan Fashion Week.

Still, he doesn't have the celebrity of a Galliano, and Jil Sander didn't have as broad an audience to please as does Dior. It will be the trick for Simons to balance exciting, fashion-forward design with global appeal that will find its place on red carpets and in department stores.

Fashion writer Samantha Critchell in New York contributed to this report.

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