The most recent speculation regarding the revolving door circus that Paris fashion houses have become has taken yet another dramatic turn of events. The latest reports state that Raf Simons is not going to Dior after all and that Bill Gaytten (John Galliano’s ex-right-hand man at Dior + John Galliano the label) is to remain at the helm of the collections at Christian Dior. There are also rumors that have Raf Simons getting fired at Jil Sander instead of stepping down by choice but for the sake of clarity, we will only discuss the musical chairs at the fashion houses and not pay any attention to whether Simons was fired or not. Up until two days ago, the general expectation was that Simons would go to Dior and not to replace Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent, as was practically declared by a major fashion editor, as far back as September of 2011. After many months of sometimes ridiculous hypothesis posed by various members of the fashion press, Yves Saint Laurent finally made an announcement three days ago that Pilati’s final collection for the label will be the fall 2012 show in Paris, on March 5th. Pilati’s replacement at Yves Saint Laurent is none other than one of fashion’s biggest darlings, the hugely influential designer Hedi Slimane, the man responsible for the skinny tailoring trend that redefined the men’s market back in the late 1990s and is still evident today. This will mark Slimane’s second time at the helm at YSL, a post he held in their menswear collection before jumping ship to Dior Homme but it will also be his debut as women’s designer.
What is so odd about this situation is that the executives who seem to influence these decisions don’t have a very clear head about who the next designer at Dior should be and as a consequence, a sea of rumors, largely fueled by the media it must be said, are materializing in every direction. Among the names that have been floated as the next head designer at Christian Dior have been Marc Jacobs, Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz and even a few much younger designers who have no experience with big houses or couture. Obviously it makes sense that Jil Sander come back to her namesake collection, she established the style at that house after all. Raf Simons is a great designer and he did a spectacular job at Jil Sander but the fact remains that the business lost a lot of customers and many have never come back after both of Sander’s departures. She hast left twice in the past due to differences of opinion with upper management. With this latest development of Simons not going to Dior, perhaps he will focus on his own collection which is always directional and well received yet could benefit from a higher profile worldwide.
So who will take Christian Dior into the next stage?! It would seem Bill Gaytten will for the time being but fashion editors and critics alike have yet to warm-up to him in their reviews and who knows what’s happening at retail levels in terms of the sell through of the ready-to-wear collection to say nothing of the couture. It would be very difficult to imagine that the same type of extroverted woman, socialite or celebrity who might have relished in her couture orders with John Galliano would be buying the same amounts from Bill Gaytten. To be fair, Gaytten’s collections are faithful to the Dior legacy but they are a definite departure from the theatrics of Galliano. One would assume that former Galliano clients are now flocking to Givenchy or to Milan’s Francesco Scognamiglio, Lady Gaga certainly is.
Still, one has to wonder why one of the most natural choices for the job has never surfaced as a contender? Giambattista Valli commands a jet-setting clientele across the globe. He is always surrounded by cool society girls which constitute a good part of his wealthy clientele and his collections are not as theatrical as Galliano’s but they always walk the fine line between high glamour and sex appeal. His designs are modern without being trashy or gimmicky and he is fast becoming a staple during awards season in Hollywood. What’s more, he has already proven himself as a couturier as this past January he became an official member of Le Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. So what is going on with this post at Dior? Could it be that they are just buying more time and will heed to Franca Sozzani’s (Editor in Chief at Italian Vogue) suggestion to bring back Galliano himself? – Victor Vargas