In its second major creative upheaval in the last five years, Christian Dior, the Parisian couture house that is the cornerstone of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton luxury empire, announced on Thursday that the artistic director Raf Simons was leaving the brand. No replacement has been named.
According to a statement from Mr. Simons, who is also the founder of a namesake men’s wear brand based in Antwerp, Belgium, the decision was “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 of my work.”
Sidney Toledano, chief executive of Christian Dior Couture, and Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH, thanked Mr. Simons for “his exceptional contribution to the House.”
That contribution centered not only on Mr. Simons’s ability to take the heritage couture house into the 21st century, constantly updating classic shapes such as the Bar jacket with contemporary materials and silhouettes, but also on a sense of personal renewal he brought to the brand after the bruising and very public firing of the former creative director John Galliano for anti-Semitic comments in 2011.
“Raf was the calm after the storm,” said Marigay McKee, a luxury consultant and the former president of Saks Fifth Avenue. “I am really shocked. It was going so well.”
Mr. Simons’s departure from Dior comes just weeks after another well-known designer, Alexander Wang, produced his last collection for a rival Parisian house, Balenciaga.
As industry rivals elsewhere found themselves grappling with a Chinese economic slowdown and foreign exchange volatility, consumer enthusiasm for the Dior brand appeared to grow unabated, something repeatedly attributed by executives to the vision of Mr. Simons. 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, 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.
“I think that in a short time he has really accomplished a lot,” said Stefano Tonchi, the editor of W Magazine, citing warm reviews not only from the news media but also from buyers. “He has really brought Dior into the contemporary conversation in a certain way it was not with John, the last years with John.”
The news Thursday came as a surprise to the fashion world, following by only a few weeks Mr. Simons’s well-received Dior spring 2016 women’s wear collection, shown in a courtyard in the Louvre before an audience that included Rihanna as well as numerous clients in items from the most recent Dior cruise collection, along with Mr. Arnault and his family.
Mr. Simons was not seen as unhappy in his post, though according to a person familiar with the negotiations who asked to remain anonymous, his contract had expired in May and discussions had been taking place since then.
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 to have a particularly amicable relationship with Mr. Toledano.
“As a friend, I feel sad for Sidney, because he invested a lot emotionally in Raf, and it is hard to see the person you have been supporting and coaching and helping leave,” said Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, the French fashion trade association. “But Dior is a very powerful brand. Clearly, Raf helped with that. He did a great job. But Dior will survive without him.”
(Ralph Toledano is not related to Sydney Toledano.)
Luca Solca, head of global luxury goods analysis at Exane BNP Paribas, pointed to the example of Hedi Slimane at the rival brand Saint Laurent, a designer known for not simply making the clothes for the brand but also for photographing the ad campaigns and creating the furniture in the stores as the new paradigm for many peers. “It seems to me many people are looking at Saint Laurent in awe,” Mr. Solca said. “The bar has become very high for creative directors to emulate that.”
Mr. Simons, who is Belgian and trained as an industrial designer before starting his men’s wear brand in 1995, joined Christian Dior in 2012 after six years as creative director at Jil Sander, his first women’s wear job. Though he maintained his men’s wear brand throughout his time at both Sander and Dior, analysts estimate it has annual revenues under €10 million.
Speculation now centers on who will be named the next Dior creative director, and a search has just begun. Though the brand declined to set a time frame for its choice, there is some urgency because the luxury industry as a whole is suffering from slowing sales and a challenging global consumer climate, and a house without a creative identity is at risk.
The next pre-fall collection will be designed by the in-house team and shown quietly in January in Paris.
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the status of negotiations between Dior and Raf Simons. They have expired, they are not ongoing, and they did not end in May, as an earlier version of this correction stated.