New horizons and naughty nighties - Raf Simons' Dior springs the Paris season into step

Raf Simons showed his latest offering for Dior in Paris this week. 

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

New horizons. They’re something fashion should strive for, and something we all too infrequently see. It’s the energising thing about Raf Simons’ work for Christian Dior: good or bad, he’s invariably hankering after something new. And in an industry increasingly characterised by the sound of one hand clapping when a designer takes their bow (what with everyone recording the moment for posterity on an iPhone and all), that’s something that should be, genuinely, applauded.

Horizons were the metaphor Simons picked to characterise his spring/summer 2016 Dior show. New ones, sure, and expanding existing ones. He made the latter metaphor manifest with a momentous mound of delphiniums, like a transplanted backdrop of the mountainous and windswept Granville coastline of Monsieur Dior’s youth. As for the former? That’s the whole idea of his Dior - to delve into the well-established tropes of the label’s history, pluck out a specimen that interests him, and allow it to gestate. 

Any Sound of Music allusions evoked by those rolling hills were probably incidental, although the adumbrated notions of exploring fresh territory and scaling new terrain were doubtless ideas Simons wished to conjure. Fashion designers should want us to think about those kind of things. Raf Simons always does. The task he’s set himself at Dior is to discover the undiscovered. Always the same, but different - anchored to Dior’s heritage somehow, but a proposition that feels exciting. For the press sure, and for the customers - but most importantly, for Simons himself.

Simons works hard at that sort of thing, which can sometime make his collections feel overly laboured. He pours reference and time and thought into each and every garment, which can stand stiff and heavy, saturated with the effort. Not here. The theme this time? There wasn’t one - which in itself felt new. Rather than searching for a justification of the clothes he presented at Dior this time though, Simons was happy to lay them out, relatively flat. They were all the better for it. His dissected silhouettes - a sweater or coat abstracted from its composite outfit, as if lifted from a history book in a surrealist game of exquisite corpse - were shown with sweet little Victorian voile pantalets and bodices peeking out. Those sound like they should have been alienating and antiquated, but ended up feeling fresh, unpretentious. Even modern. In a season awash with drippy, lace-tipped camisole slips, this felt like lingerie looked at with fresh eyes.

The underpinnings underpinned the whole enterprise - aesthetically (white shirting shorts popped out from under the most unexpected things) but also ideologically. There was a lightness to this Dior collection - of fabric, in gossamer organdies like a wash of colour across those white underthings. But overwhelmingly the lightness was of hand, the handle of fabrics, a deftness of touch. It was there in tailoring pinched to stand away from the body in airless iterations of the hourglass Dior suit, in slim pleated dresses, in layers of breathy fine chiffon. For an airless summer, those looked if not practical, certainly desirable.

Isn’t desire more important than practicality? That’s what’s going to sell this kind of stuff. Desire was palpable throughout. Desire for the Dior product, sure - although models dragging their handbags like a commercial albatross were unconvincing and an unnecessary addition. It’s old-fashioned to think a fashion show will sell a handbag, and they were a jarring addition to Simons’ otherwise adroit and fully-realised vision. Desire also came through that underwear as outerwear, and the lingerie touches of slithery bias-cut dresses with transparent inserts, layered mousseline, and graphic collages of horizontal and vertical pleats boldly spliced with metallic zips. Those pleats and tucks migrated into lightweight coats, transposing the movement of flou - the floaty, blowsy stuff Dior does so well - into tailleur. At hia haute couture show in July, the same idea was expressed through flip-back linings in plisse chiffon. here, those pleats were integrated into bandbox-striped coats and parkas, movement suddenly breaking out at the hem. It was more convincing. They convinced you that you wanted them.

For all their desirability though, these Dior clothes avoided the pitfall of flat, soulless commerce. They were terribly clever - but not too clever for their own good. The cerebral cortex didn’t overwhelm the corporeal context. Overall, the sense was of Simons stripping away heavy layers, shedding bulk and streamlining. Imagine the relief Dior clients of old must have felt in casting off their New Look ball gowns - themselves constructed like Victorian dresses, with buttresses of cambric and taffeta linings - and standing in their nearly-nothings. That Simons could create quite such excitement with quite so little fabric is a testament to his talent, and his intelligence.

And, I guess, to the enduring pulling power of a naughty nightie.

 

Comments