Two swiss designers will snowboard into Paris high fashion at Christian Dior on Monday — their names still officially unknown
Serge Ruffieux, 41, born near Geneva in 1974, joined Dior in 2008 during the John Galliano years and became head designer in 2012 when Raf Simons was chosen as artistic director. Lucie Meier, born in Zermatt in 1983, was head-hunted by Dior after five years with Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton, followed by a period at Balenciaga with Nicolas Ghesquière.
Both designers - and especially Ruffieux, who advanced from Moschino Cheap and Chic, through Sonia Rykiel, furrier Yves Salomon, Gerard Darel and Cacharel - have impeccable credentials and a current skill set that encompasses haute couture. The question is whether they will confirm a recent trend for finding talent in-house, or be seen merely as a stop-gap until a high profile designer can be lured to the house.
The Force is with the back-room guys. It has worked spectacularly well at Valentino, where, since 2008, the house has found a fresh spirit under Italian duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli. They had both worked for a decade with Valentino before they were appointed.
Then there is Gucci, where a complete re-think of image and product by Alessandro Michele, 42, makes one wonder how he could have managed to keep silent his wild hippie-de-luxe vision for the previous decade.
The departure of Raf Simons, the Belgian designer who left Dior unexpectedly in October 2015, overwhelmed by the demanding workload and struggling to find time for his own line, has left the house disappointed and hurt. According to insider information, senior management at Dior felt they had bent over backwards to accommodate their new designer and his resignation made them wary of continuing a system that had been in place 35 years.
It was Karl Lagerfeld's appointment to Chanel in 1983, followed by Tom Ford at Gucci in 1994 and Galliano at Dior in 1996, which set the standard. But the dismissal of Alber Elbaz from Lanvin late last year showed that the previous system was cracking.
Sidney Toledano, left, with his wife Katia and Dior Homme designer Kris Van Assche. Picture credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto
Significantly, LVMH Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault and his extended family turned out for the Dior Homme show at the weekend in support of menswear designer Kris Van Assche, who gave up his own personal brand last year after a decade. There was also a powerful line-up of celebrities and loyal front-row regulars, including Karl Lagerfeld.
A dramatic set of skateboarding ramps, streaks of red neon lighting, and a sparking scarlet chandelier created the set for a confident and colourful show.
Although the overall effect was youthful and street-wise - as in baggy rapper pants, puffa coats and woolly hats - there was plenty of tailoring, especially in coats, to speak for Dior elegance. Persistent check patterns gave a smart balance between bold and sober.
I didn't know whether the show's claim to "The Art of Falling Apart" was an ironic comment on Dior's current designer-less state - or to the mildly distressed clothes.
To cement Kris Van Assche's position at Dior Homme, Sidney Toledano, CEO of Christian Dior, held a celebration dinner alongside the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
Celebrity guests at the long, flower-filled tables included hip-hop artist A$AP; Oliver Sim from rock band The xx (now a face of Dior Homme's Spring/Summer 2016 ad campaign); and actors Christian Slater, Noomi Rapace and Lambert Wilson. Then there was Pierre Niney, who starred as Yves Saint Laurent in the 2014 biopic, for which he won a César Award for Best Actor.
Yves Saint Laurent, of course, started his illustrious career at the House of Dior, after its founder died in 1957, while Hedi Slimane, now at Saint Laurent, made his name at Dior Homme. According to the Paris rumour mill, Hedi is set to fly back and take over Dior. Unless it's Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen - or almost any other current designer.
With so much festering gossip, a little crisp, clear, clean Swiss air could be just what haute couture needs. And I wish Serge Ruffieux and Lucie Meier all the best for their Dior debut.