Just when we thought we were up to date with all the latest musical chairs moves among top fashion positions, today there's another major industry shuffle — and it's one of the biggest announcements in a while. Except this latest development doesn't actually come as much of a surprise. After 10 months of speculation about Raf Simons's next move following his departure from the creative director role at Dior, the designer is headed across the Atlantic to rejigger the look of Calvin Klein as chief creative officer.
The brand finally confirmed today — via Instagram, as one does these days — that the Belgian fashion designer will be taking the creative helm at the American fashion house. Simons's role is a new one for the iconic American house, as he will oversee all of its labels, from its highest-end ready-to-wear offering, Calvin Klein Collection, to its profitable underwear and denim businesses. No one has had such creative carte blanche at the label since Klein himself ran it, up until 2002.
After Simons departed from Dior in October 2015, immediately following the spring '16 show, rumors of the designer's new role first arose in November, when WWD reported that he'd be heading to Calvin Klein once the dust had settled. Those suspicions were only heightened when Francisco Costa, Calvin Klein's creative director of womenswear, and Italo Zucchelli, the brand's menswear creative director, left the brand in April. The iconic American brand then revealed plans to unify its men's and women's collections under the creative direction of just one designer. The real Calvin Klein, who sold his namesake fashion empire 14 years ago, yet is still involved with the company, all but confirmed back in June that Simons was indeed nabbing the position. “They won’t announce [who it is] publicly because it’s under contract, but the whole industry knows,” the designer told Andy Cohen during a SiriusXM interview.
But why has it taken almost a year to officially announce what everyone in the industry has known and been whispering about for months and months? Well, the delay is due to a stringent non-compete clause in Simons's contract with Dior, which ran through the end of July. Though the contract ended just last week, Raf Simons has purportedly already relocated to New York and begun preliminary meetings with Calvin Klein employees.
So what do you need to know about the man tasked with ushering in a next-gen Calvin Klein, in an unusually expansive role? Well, Simons has been a key player in transforming the menswear landscape, but his career actually began in furniture design. Simons launched his self-titled menswear label in 1995, and a decade later was appointed creative director at Jil Sander, marking his first foray into womenswear. Simons stayed at the Milan-based fashion house for seven years, until 2012, when founder Jil Sander returned to her label.
A few months later, Simons replaced Bill Gaytten as creative director at Dior, after a limbo period following John Galliano's dramatic fall from grace and dismissal for his anti-Semitic remarks. But after a three-year stint, on October 22, 2015, Raf Simons resigned from his role at Dior, where he was lauded for both respecting and modernizing the house's signature silhouettes and aesthetic. "It is a decision based entirely and equally on my desire to focus on other interests in my life, including my own brand, and passions that drive me outside my work," Simons explained of the rationale behind his departure in a press release. Dior named Simons's successor last month: the venerable French fashion house tapped Valentino's Maria Grazia Chiuri for the role.
Since Simons's ostensible reason for leaving Dior was to focus more on personal pursuits, it's a bit surprising for some that he has moved on to another multi-million-dollar, international fashion house that runs on the same never-ending cycle and schedule as his previous roles. In April, some months after his departure, Simons told The Telegraph: "Everyone is paying attention to the wrong thing, in my opinion. There’s this huge debate about ‘Oh my God, should we sell the garments the day after the show or three days after the show, or should we tweet it in this way or Instagram it in that way?’… You know, all that kind of bullshit. Will all that stuff still be relevant 30 years from now? I don’t think so. What we should ask is, will we have enough creative people who are strong enough and willing to do what is necessary right now to follow that madhouse. Lots of people are starting to question it. My generation especially is shifting now…like me and Phoebe [Philo], Nicolas [Ghesquière], and Marc [Jacobs]. We’ve been around for 20 or more years. We know what fashion was and where it’s heading to. Now it’s a question of what we are willing to do and how we are going to do it."
That said, we can't wait to discover Simons's answer to that question. How do you think the designer could shape the future of fashion with his new role at Calvin Klein?