Months after Dior fired its former creative director John Galliano for making drunken anti-Semitic slurs, the storied couture house has been without any solid leadership. Industry sources in the fashion world, however, are saying Dior is close to signing on Jil Sander creative director Raf Simons to take the helm, reports WWD. While the fashion world is excited at the prospect, it won’t be an easy move, as Simons will need to break his newly-extended contract with Jil Sander. ARTINFO takes a look at how Simons measures up to the label’s namesake, Christian Dior.
Born to Maurice Dior, a wealthy fertilizer manufacturer, and his wife Madeleine in 1905, Dior was the second of five children and grew up in Granville, France, a town located on the Normandy coast. Simons grew up under more modest circumstances in Neerpelt, a small Belgian village, as the only child of a soldier and a house cleaner.
Both Dior and Simons started out in different industries before switching gears to the fashion world. Dior enrolled in the prestigious École des Sciences Politique in Paris in 1923. Five years later, he went on to open an art gallery, Galerie Jacques Bonjean, with a friend, thanks to his father’s financial backing. Dior was forced to close the gallery 1931 after his father was forced to shutter the family business. Simons studied industrial design with a specialty in furniture making in Genk, Belgium. According to the Wall Street Journal, Simons gave it up because he “found the manufacturing process too slow and isolating.”
Dior began his design career when he started selling sketches to couturiers and magazines like Vogue in 1935 at age 30. Three years later, Robert Piguet hired Dior as his assistant. Simons unveiled his first menswear collection in 1995 at age 27, with a little help from the tailor father of then-fashion director at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Linda Loppa, who introduced the two after Simons’s talent as a furniture designer caught her eye.
In 1947, Dior introduced his first couture collection, which he dubbed “New Look,” unveiling a full skirt combined with a cinched waist, and rounded shoulders — an hourglass shape. His look came to be described as flowing, romantic, and ultra-feminine. Simons, on the other hand, is known for having a more minimalist aesthetic, often using clean, simple lines — but that doesn’t mean he’s not versatile. Recently the designer has been experimenting with couture and bridal design.
Dior always remained true to his love for art, often naming his creations after revered artists, like the Matisse and Braque dresses from his fall/winter 1949 couture collection. Simons has often looked to art for inspiration in designing his collections, reproducing Mark Rothko’s color-block paintings on sweaters for his eponymous line’s fall/winter 2008 collection, using the look of rusting metal inspired by American Minimalist Carl Andre for his Fred Perry fall/winter 2009 collaboration, and taking influence from Russian painter Serge Poliakoff for a brushstroke print in his Jil Sander pre-fall 2011 collection.
THE PICASSO LINK
Dior used to sell pieces by the then-burgeoning artist in the ‘20s, eventually naming a dress after Picasso. Simons emblazoned faces from Picasso’s ceramics on knitwear for his spring/summer 2012 collection.
THE OPPOSITE SEX
Although he's primarily a women’s designer, Dior is said to have dabbled with menswear during his career. But the men’s label that bares his name didn’t get its start until 13 years after his death in 1970. By contrast, Simons got his start as a menswear designer, effortlessly transitioning to womenswear in 2005 when he was appointed created director of Jil Sander.
Princess Margaret, Ava Gardener, Marlene Dietrich were just a few of the glamorous women on Dior’s client list. Tilda Swinton, Nicole Kidman, and Drew Barrymore have worn Simons’s designs for Jil Sander on the red carpet.