At the Christian Dior show on Monday afternoon designer Raf Simons flung open the windows of the august fashion house. Letting an invigorating cool breeze of modernity and a bright light of reality in to sweep away any remaining cobwebs of past couturiers and preconceived ideas about what couture should be.
Don’t be mislead into thinking that Simons has any intention of taking couture off its pedestal at the top of the fashion pyramid. The couture dream is still alive and well at Dior. But this is contemporary couture that takes into account the demands and desires of a modern clientele whose lives do not subsist solely on gala dinners and red carpet events.
In the show notes Simons talked about how he, “wanted to focus on the idea of intimacy around couture more than anything else, the emotional experience of it; the relationship between the clients, the salon, the women.”
The venue was definitely on the intimate side. It’s cocooning, almost claustrophobic white plaster design brought to mind the retro interior of Pierre Cardin’s bubble house in the South of France. And there was just a whiff of Cardin’s 1960s heyday in the shapes and proportions of the collection. An era that was all about radical change and transformation- it’s an outlook that seems to resonate strongly with Simons.
This collection was all about crafting clothing to conceal and reveal at the same time. Ensembles that played with both movement and volume, creating a simultaneously sense of protection and lightness to the garments.
The show opened with short A-line dresses that swung about the model in rippling diagonal tiers of silk across the body and featured cut away fabric that made the their skin an essential element of the design.
This cutwork was the leitmotif of the collection. It gave a graphic dynamism to Simons’s navy “Bar” suits. Created windows through which to appreciated the delicate underlying beadwork in abstract flower motifs. And it perfectly punctured the volume that the designer employed at the back of a number of dresses.
When Simons wasn’t embroidering fabric openings, he was layering feather light fabrics on asymmetrical hemmed gowns or creating appliqué texture on jumpsuits. And as if the introduction of jumpsuits wasn’t enough of a couture reality check, the designer sent out a number of his looks with flat slip on sneakers, embellished with colorful beading. Which bodes the question, will Jennifer Lawrence be wearing those on Oscar night?
But as much as the story of this show was about the intimate confidential moments in a woman’s life, the collection itself engaged with the public more completely and profoundly then ever before.
The house showed the couture collection not once, but three times over the course of the day. Most significantly one of those shows presented the finished works of the brand’s in-house seamstresses and tailors who had brought the collection to life. The brand also invited almost a hundred of the world’s top fashion students to see the show and visit the couture atelier. Giving them a taste of what their future could look like.
Something for them to savor and cherish, just like the one-of-a-kind ensembles Simons created in this collection.