Raf Simons's Greatest Accomplishment at Dior? Re-establishing the House Codes

In the midst of speculation over why he left, we take a look back at the legacy he left.
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Dhani Mau
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In the midst of speculation over why he left, we take a look back at the legacy he left.
A look from Dior's fall 2012 couture collection. Photo: Imaxtree

A look from Dior's fall 2012 couture collection. Photo: Imaxtree

Wednesday's announcement that Raf Simons had stepped down as creative director of Dior was shocking for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it wasn't preceded by weeks of rumors that it would happen, as designer departures tend to be. Even though insiders at LVMH knew at his spring 2016 show in Paris that he would leave, no one else did until very recently (Vogue and The Cut seemingly had just enough time to prepare in-depth articles). And even now, no one outside of that inner circle really knows why Simons decided to leave (though Cathy Horyn probably has the best guesses).

Aside from the obvious problem of the unrelenting fashion calendar overworking designers (particularly at Dior), some ideas could be surmised from the documentary "Dior and I," which chronicled Simons's first few months at the house. The Belgian designer seemed a bit uncomfortable with the size and scope of the company, more interested in intellectual concepts, innovative technical work and collaborations with his favorite artists than any commercial aspect. Even so, ultimately, sales grew under his direction (about 60 percent since 2011), thanks to his firm (and rare) belief that fashion — even couture — should be wearable.

He executed that philosophy (which he felt was also Christian Dior's philosophy) in a way that both allowed him to express his own artistic vision (though perhaps not quite as much as he would have liked) and helped to reestablish the codes of Dior. "The Chanel woman? I don't even need to see, I smell her from round the corner, but I don't recognize the Dior woman," Simons told Vogue UK in 2012, shortly after debuting his first Dior collection. "I want to work on that fast. Chanel has the deux-pièces with the pockets, or the bouclé, but what is it for Dior nowadays? I can't say." So did he succeed? For the relatively short time he's had the position — about three and a half years and 20 collections (Ok, that's a lot), we think he has. Read on for a look at the codes Simons has left most ingrained in our minds, after so many runway shows, magazine editorials and red carpet moments.

The Bar jacket

A look from Dior's spring 2013 collection. Photo: Imaxtree

A look from Dior's spring 2013 collection. Photo: Imaxtree

Many of the codes Simons seemed set on establishing at Dior could be found in his first two collections for the house — most notably (at least to critics) his interpretations of the Bar jacket, derived from Christian Dior's 1947 "New Look" collection. Streamlined, slim and nipped at the waist to suggest an hourglass silhouette, we've seen them in a variety of lengths, fabrications — and even as some very appealing dresses.

Dressed-up pants

Emma Watson in Dior at the 2015 Golden Globes. Photo: George Pimentel/WireImage

Emma Watson in Dior at the 2015 Golden Globes. Photo: George Pimentel/WireImage

Dress-like tops, as well as the aforementioned jackets, were often styled over pants tailored so impeccably they would not have looked out of place on a red carpet. And while they took some getting used to, certain celebrities tried it to varying degrees of success. We'd argue Emma Watson pulled this look off better than anyone, on more than one occasion.

Full skirts

Jennifer Lawrence at the 2013 Oscars. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Jennifer Lawrence at the 2013 Oscars. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

After Simons's tenure, Dior may be more associated with a feminine-yet-architectural, full-skirted silhouette (often with a strapless bodice) than anything else — at least to those outside the industry, who's primary exposure to the brand has been through advertisements and red carpet appearances. This could be Jennifer Lawrence's fault as much as Simons's.

Pockets

A look from Dior's spring 2013 collection. Photo: Imaxtree

A look from Dior's spring 2013 collection. Photo: Imaxtree

What made those skirts and gowns truly special was that they almost always had pockets. I mean, who doesn't love a pocket?

Flowers

Dior's spring 2016 runway show. Photo: Rindoff/Le Segretain/Getty Images for Dior

Dior's spring 2016 runway show. Photo: Rindoff/Le Segretain/Getty Images for Dior

From the rooms covered floor-to-ceiling in literally one million flowers at his debut couture show, to the dome covered in almost-half a million blue and lilac delphiniums that served as the venue for his final show earlier this month, Simons has paid tribute to Mr. Dior's love of flowers most extravagantly through set design. Several Dior campaigns during Simons's tenure had (more subtle) floral touches, as well.