Was Raf Simons Fired From Jil Sander?

When Raf Simons announced he would be exiting Jil Sander, it was believed he was leaving because he snagged a bigger gig. Was Dior calling his name? Or perhaps Yves Saint Laurent? Probably not — especially since it looks like he was actually fired.

In her WWD column today, Bridget Foley discusses the return of Jil Sander to her eponymous label, noting that Simons was “unceremoniously dumped”:

Simons leaves — more correctly, he was unceremoniously dumped  — at the top of his game. A designer of women’s wear neither by education (he studied furniture design) nor first sartorial vocation (he started in men’s), in 2005 he took over a house in distress after some bad decisions — including the one by its founder to sell into a situation, which, in retrospect, would almost surely lead to a clash of personalities — and turned it around, at least creatively. He made it not only relevant again but essential.

We’re just as perplexed as Foley. Simons did incredible work at Jil Sander. Why would they want to get rid of him? The clothes he designed should sell (in the words of Foley: “If these clothes aren’t salable, I’m sad for fashion.”), and they surely have a place in the fashion canon. His spring 2011 collection was one of our favorites of all time! However, Foley does posit that a lack of proper infrastructure and the “company’s inability to build an accessories business” hurt its bottom line.

The ever-wise Cathy Horyn agrees. Yesterday she wrote of the “arbitrariness of Raf Simons’s departure” — a situation she deemed “illogical”:

Franco Pene, the chairman of Gibo, an Italian subsidiary of Onward Holdings, which owns Jil Sander, said of the decision: “It’s not that we wanted to change designers. Raf has done a really good job. He’s one of three or four top designers in the world.” He mentioned Phoebe Philo of Céline and Alber Elbaz of Lanvin. But, Mr. Pene said, “it was a strategic issue to return to the culture of the brand” under its founder, Ms. Sander, and gain “consistency.”

Like Foley, Horyn lamented the “management’s inability to make a business out of Mr. Simons’s designs”. It’s pretty insane. If Jil Sander could not sell Simons’s gorgeous (and wearable!) designs, it certainly shows weakness on a management level. This is simply not Simons’s fault. Regardless, the man’s talent speaks for itself, and we’re excited to see just where he lands.

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