After making his debut roughly three and a half years ago, Raf Simons is leaving Dior. Per WWD, “Dior said the designer reached this decision for personal reasons and that the spring-summer 2016 collection he presented under a flower-festooned hillock in a courtyard of the Louvre on Oct. 2 was his last … Simons’ successor at Dior has yet to be identified and a search is to be conducted, according to informed industry sources.” 

The announcement of Simons’s departure comes as a bit of a surprise given the momentum that Simons has generated (both in terms of industry acceptance and sales at the house). Simons’ modernist designs for the house, which he joined in 2012, quite obviously resonated with customers, as the brand’s CEO Sidney Toledano recently told French newspaper Les Echos that Dior Couture had seen a 60 percent growth in revenues since 2011. Per the New York Times, “In the period from July 1 to Sept. 30 this year, Christian Dior Couture revenue rose 5 percent at constant exchange rates to 471 million euros, or $524 million, when compared with the same quarter last year. For the most recent full fiscal year ended June 30, revenues at Christian Dior Couture were up 18 percent, to €1.77 billion, or $1.94 billion.”

Interestingly, the designer, who oversaw all creative direction for the Paris-based design house’s womenswear and couture collections, while simultaneously running his eponymous label, celebrated with artist Sterling Ruby at the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain in Paris last night, suggesting he will be stepping out to pursue his own label and his love of art. While Simons is rumored to have new projects in the works already, we won’t see them come into fruition for at least a year thanks to the inevitable non-compete agreement he signed with Christian Dior, which prevents him from working for a competitor for a period of at least one year. 

Cathy Horyn echoed this sentiment, writing: “He no doubt has a noncompete agreement with Dior that will prohibit him from working for another brand for some months, possibly a year. Almost certainly he’ll want to do women’s fashion again, perhaps with a different set of challenges than he had at Dior or Jil Sander, where he worked from 2005 to 2011.”

Writing for the New York Times, Vanessa Friedman noted: “Mr. Simons reportedly felt stymied by his lack of ability to affect the shape of the brand beyond the collections themselves (he was unable, for example, to redesign the stores), though he was also known for having a particularly amicable relationship with Mr. Toledano.”

Simons has released the following statement: “It is after careful and long consideration that I have decided to leave my position as creative director of Christian Dior’s women’s collection,” Simons, 47, said in a statement. “It is a decision based entirely and equally on my desire to focus on other interests in my life, including my own brand, and the passions that drive me outside my work. Christian Dior is an extraordinary company, and it has been an immense privilege to write a few pages of this magnificent book. I want to thank Mr. Bernard Arnault for the trust he has put in me, giving me the incredible opportunity to work at this beautiful house surrounded by the most amazing team one could ever dream of. I have also had the chance over the last few years to benefit from the leadership of Sidney Toledano. His thoughtful, heartfelt and inspired management will also remain as one of the most important experiences of my professional career.”

As for Simons’s replacements, Horyn says: “Lots of names will surface. One is Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. His show in New York in September, attended by top LVMH executives, seemed a platform for a major career move. But is his dark, religion-infused aesthetic right for pretty Dior? And can Toledano strike a rapport with Tisci, as he did so easily with Simons? Another possibility is Phoebe Philo of Céline. Her women-friendly clothes cause a buzz, and she’s a master of accessories, but while it would be fascinating to see a woman at Dior, the London-based Philo may resist the idea of spending more time in Paris — and being responsible for many more shows than she now is at Céline.”