Fashion houses have been struggling lately with the notion of whether or not a label needs a marquee designer to be the face/DNA/personality of a brand. (See: The Simon Spurr fiasco). When Galliano was fired from Dior for his now-notorious anti-Semitic rant, many wondered what would become of the house in the wake of the loss of its charismatic artistic director.
What happened is that Dior's sales increased. With Galliano's right-hand man Bill Gaytten standing in until a successor was named, Dior's revenues hit $1 billion in 2011 for the first time ever, according to the Financial Times. Sidney Toledano, the president and chief executive of Christian Dior was surprised. "I never considered that,” Toledano told the FT. “I always thought we absolutely needed an artistic director."
In case you hadn't heard, Dior named Raf Simons to the role. Simons is a decidedly less flamboyant character than Galliano, but one whose work is highly acclaimed by the industry. The question is, will consumers respond to him and his work? It seems that the Dior consumer wants a product they understand and can relate to. “[Designers], and their charisma, are what creates breakthroughs. But you make choices about how you use that," said Toledano. We have no doubt that Simons will do amazing things for the house of Dior, but it will be interesting to watch how labels continue to manage the increasingly frequent hirings and firings of creative directors and how it affects their bottom lines.