Raf Simons Is Leaving Jil Sander… Is He Going To Dior?

Designer Raf Simons, widely believed to be the frontrunner to replace John Galliano at Dior, announced today that he is leaving his job as creative director of the Jil Sander label. So where is he headed? And who will replace him as leader of the German fashion house?

Whether or not Simons will actually head to Dior remains to be seen — reports of his departure were confirmed this morning in a press release, but neither he nor Jil Sander spokespeople will say where he’s headed. Rumors about Sander herself taking over for him, however, couldn’t be better timed. They all point back to a teaser for a story in today’s edition of the German magazine Gala, which promises details on Sander’s return to the label she founded in 1968. Prada bought a 75 percent stake in the company in 1999, and asked Sander to stay on as creative director and chairwoman. But after six months of creative differences with Prada CEO Patrizio Bertelli, Sander left — and so did most of her loyal staff.

Sander returned to the label in 2003, but her fighting with Bertelli only made it possible for her to stay for two collections. An in-house design team created clothes until May 2005, when Simons was appointed creative director. Since then the brand has been sold twice, first to a private equity firm in London, then to another similar firm based in Japan. Meanwhile, Sander has kept busy as a fashion consultant. She even designed a few capsule collections for Uniqlo, and ended her collaboration with that brand late last year.

Dior has been languidly trying to replace Galliano since last February — and for a long time it looked like Marc Jacobs was the obvious choice. But Simons’ ability to make modern and wearable clothing that experiments with and takes advantage of old-school couture techniques really primes him to do things with the Dior business that no one else can. Nevertheless, his departure creates a hole the the company has to fill. And if the only obstacle stopping Sander from taking her company back was fighting with Bertelli, then she’s more than primed for a comeback. Stay tuned to see where they both end up.

[NYT, Gala, The Telegraph]

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