By and  on May 27, 2005

MILAN — Hoping to turn off the rumor mill but ignite a new buzz, Prada Group on Thursday appointed Raf Simons as creative director of Jil Sander.

The Belgian men's wear designer, who takes over July 1, will be in charge of Sander's men's and women's collections, starting with the fall-winter 2006 season. Prada's announcement confirms a report in WWD on Thursday.

Simons' appointment comes six months after Jil Sander surprised the fashion world by leaving the company she founded more than 30 years ago, for the second time. Since then, the collection has been done by Sander's design team, which will continue to oversee the line for cruise and spring-summer 2006. Simons' first effort for Sander will be the men's wear collection to be shown in January 2006.

Gian Giacomo Ferraris, chief executive officer of Jil Sander, told WWD that when he met Simons last January, he was impressed by the designer's "managerial sense."

"He is a great communicator and is one of the few designers who doesn't leave a business meeting after two minutes," said Ferraris. "The premise is that we're not doing a Raf Simons women's line, but bringing innovation to an iconic brand that already exists."

Simons declined comment Thursday. In a statement, he said, "I couldn't be happier to work for a brand as pure and clean as Jil Sander. I am eager to carry forward the simple and pristine design that Jil Sander has come to represent. There is a strong affinity between how I perceive my own design and the core values that the Jil Sander brand embraces."

Simons will continue designing his namesake men's wear collection, shuttling between Antwerp, where he is based; Hamburg, the base for part of Jil Sander production, and Milan, where Prada and the remainder of Sander's operations are based.

Clearly, Simons has become one of the most influential men's wear designers around today. True to his Belgian roots, he has a penchant for innovative outerwear and surgically cut silhouettes. The designer, who likes to explore proportions and push the envelope with unlikely mixes of volumes, favors shape and quiet tones over loud colors and prints.

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