The west coast of the US has evidently influenced designer Raf Simons

Fashion houses are in the midst of showcasing a spate of new collections; sitting between the traditional spring/summer, autumn/winter axis, they're dubbed “resort” or “cruise”. In the past, it’s because that’s what the clothes were intended for; today, attendees frequently do the latter, to locations that feel like the former.

Why spend vast quantities of money ferrying press across the world, as opposed to showing during a fashion week as per usual? Because it’s not enough just to watch expensive dresses waft by; fashion houses want us all to live the dream lifestyle of the clients who, hopefully, will pay through the nose to eventually wear them. The intention is experiential. That’s why Chanel upped sticks to Korea earlier this month, and why the lawn out back of the late Bob Hope’s estate in Palm Springs became a catwalk for Nicolas Ghesquiere’s Louis Vuitton show last week. These shows are about selling the dream, as lavishly as possible.

This time it was Dior’s turn. The house took over the Palais Bulles, a retro-Futuristic folly built by Hungarian architect Antti Lovage and owned by the fashion designer Pierre Cardin, just outside of Cannes. There was plenty of harking back to Dior’s heritage - Cardin worked in Dior’s tailoring atelier on the first collection, cutting wasp-waisted jackets that have become a house signature. And, of the spherical chambers of his bubbling palace, like a cluster of concrete frogspawn, Cardin said "This is the body of a woman… everything is absolutely sensual.” Just like the codified curvilinear Dior silhouettes.

 

Nice notion. But I suspect the locale was chosen less for the links between Cardin’s curvy castle and Monsieur Dior’s hourglass forties creations than the coupling of contemporary Dior to celebrity. The Cannes Film Festival begins on Wednesday, with Dior primely positioned to dress attendees: Dakota Fanning was a prominent guest, as was Marion Cotillard ahead of the festival’s unveiling of her Lady Macbeth opposite Michael Fassbender.

Normally I hate emphasising a connection between fashion and Hollywood, but in this instance it isn't facile: this collection was originally slated to be shown in downtown Los Angles, and that locale had evidently influenced designer Raf Simons - he's shown collections in Tokyo and New York before, each inspired by their geographic location. Here, there was a tinge of the west coast - appropriate in LA, incongruous in Cannes. A trio of bias-cut evening dresses had a distinct note of silver screen glamour; moulded dresses and suits were cantilevered like Chryslers' bonnets. Cotton checks were layered seemingly haphazardly - the French call them Vichy, but they're redolent of American diner table-cloths, too.

There were, of course, plenty of references to Dior's distinctly French back catalogue: Raf Simons loves folded fabric, artful seaming compressing the waist. Those recurred again and again, like mnemonics reminding you of Dior’s past glories. You couldn't help but feel that, in translating them into American and then back into French, something ended up a touch garbled. That's the trouble with emphasising the experiential over, perhaps, the clothes themselves: take a wrong turn, and your collection can wind up looking like it lost its way.

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