The Day a New Dior Was Born

Hannah Yakobi is an award-winning journalist and communications specialist. Throughout her career, she has written for the National Post, OK! Magazine, the Ottawa Citizen, Canwest newspaper network and dozens of publications around the world. Currently, she is the Editor-in-Chief of FAJO Magazine, a Canadian publication with staff in Canada, U.S. and U.K.

Branding is everything in fashion. Think of any well-established company and you will immediately start getting images in your head, ranging from their specialty outfits and logo, to their artistic director or a celebrity who has recently worn their clothing.

This is precisely why yesterday was such an important turning point in the fashion industry: yesterday was the day Dior announced that Raf Simons is going to be its next artistic director.

What exactly will that mean for the company? Dior is an established luxury brand that is greatly admired by all generations. The renowned “Dior” logo is easily recognized worldwide, and the brand is careful with not stamping it left and right like so many other high-end companies.

Some of the greatest designers of our time have been at the helm of this fashion powerhouse, and each one brought along his own vision and creativity; Yves Saint Laurent’s arrival led to the creation of the Beat Look, Marc Bohan’s pieces reflected true Parisian chic and Glanfranco Ferré’s style signaled flowing pants and gown-style dresses. Every era was different but it wasn’t the designers who adapted to the brand – it was the brand that was adapting to the designers. Each time, Dior would undergo a little renaissance, just like the rest of the high-end brands that were changing their artistic directors as well.

When Galliano arrived in 1997, everything changed drastically. Previous designers who led Dior may have had contrasting styles and vision, but they also strived to make Dior synonymous with chic. Galliano’s approach was different – he was focused on the shock value. In 1999, models at his show had dead foxes (and not just a piece, but an entire animal) on their heads; in 2004, they resembled Nefertiti with oversized full-body golden dresses and large headpieces that made them look like they had King Tut’s beard; in 2009, they wore slingbacks that had a heel shaped like a naked, overweight woman. Dior also became increasingly renowned for its advertising campaigns. Progressively, the brand was becoming associated with fashion statements, celebrity models and unexpected fashion twists.

Following Galliano’s scandal last year and his subsequent dismissal, the name of the brand sunk into a temporary state of depression. Everyone still highly respected Dior, but many people have also distanced themselves from it. In fact, Galliano’s last show (at which he was not present) took place after the scandal, on March 4, 2011, and was reportedly very poorly attended.

For months, LVMH’s (and Dior’s) head Bernard Arnault was searching for a new artistic designer. There were a lot of rumours that Raf Simons, who was at Jil Sander from 2005 until earlier this year, will be the new lead of Dior. And, yesterday, it was all made official: Raf Simons is taking over.

What will this designer bring? How will the Dior woman change? Will the fading Dior menswear make a triumphant comeback? Dior’s massive fanbase worldwide has been on the edge of the seat for the last seven months, and yesterday was a true celebration among many.

Simons has a very distinct style – his namesake menswear line is well-known for its preppy chic, neutral colours and real masculinity, while his womenswear Jil Sander line is mostly geared towards business women, who like to add a touch of sexy to their clothing.

Arguably, Simons’ arrival may lead to a stronger focus on pencil skirts, slim-fit dresses and bright splashes of colour. It may also rejuvenate the menswear line.

What will the next Dior be? Only time will tell.