He initially intended to revolutionise the world of furniture design, but instead Raf Simons revolutionised the fashion industry. Creative Director of Jil Sander for 7 years, Simons single-handedly launched the label into bona-fide fashion aristocracy with his unique and instantly identifiable style of tailoring. Last month he unveiled a darling collection for Autumn/Winter 2012 at Milan Fashion Week, chock full of pretty pastel colours and cosy cashmere coats. But the show was tinged with more than a hint of sadness as it was revealed just 48 hours before the catwalk show that it would in fact be his last collection for Jil Sander- and that Jil Sander herself would be returning to the label.
Belgian-born Simons is the man behind colour-blocking, sleek silhouettes, sharp tailoring and maxi skirts. He took the helm at Jil Sander in 2005, a massive risk considering he had designed menswear for a decade, but it paid off when the label was propelled into the highest rankings of the fashion league, attracting supporters and front row regulars such as Anna Wintour. Simons undeniably worked extremely hard to get Jil Sander into the modern age and into the position it is now, his designs are recognisable the world over. He is so loved within in the industry that at his final show for Jil Sander, the audience refused to leave and stamped their feet until he came out for a tearful encore (see picture above). One model even walked her final lap of the catwalk with a face covering her hand, she was so overcome with sadness. Why then, has he left the brand?
Internet rumours suggest Simons was dumped in favour of Sander, who until 2011 was at Japanese label Uniqlo. Her name, her label. Other rumours indicate that Simons is moving onto pastures new- namely that coveted seat at Dior that has been absent for a year since Galliano's sacking or the more recently evacuated space at YSL, until today occupied by Stefano Pilato. Neither of these rumours have been confirmed or denied, all anyone knows so far is that Jil Sander once again is ruled by Jil Sander and that Simons is concentrating on his own-name menswear collection.
Personally, I can't help but think the return of Sander as a step back for the label. Simons presented a forward-thinking, modern woman and was a breath of fresh air. Sander has without a doubt done a fantastic job at Uniqlo, now a much more widely respected brand. But can she now take over seamlessly, a la Sarah Burton, from the man who made her label so critically acclaimed, so globally recognised and so, well, his?
Simons' (emotional) Final Collection, A/W '12: