Paris Fashion Week: Dior swaps the garden for the city

 

When a new designer is transplanted to an existing fashion house, there's an interesting tension to the arrangement. Raf Simons' tenure at Christian Dior has been filled with tension.

Initially, there was the tension of whether Simons - hitherto a ready-to-wear designer, predominantly in menswear - would be able to grapple with the considerable legacy of the world's most famous couture house whose design emblemise hyper-feminine mid-century womanhood.

Simons is a clever designer, a designer who is obsessed with codes, uniformity, rules. He likes to test those rules, chafe at the boundaries, push them almost to breaking point. He's been tinkering with the uniforms and codes of Dior since he began. The New Look, the cinch-waisted Tailleur Bar, the foliate references - Monsieur Dior's first collection was titled “Corolle,” because the skirts opened around the female body like the corolla of a flower.

As we walked into the autumn/winter 2014 Dior show, we were greeted with a ceiling of “flowers”: digital flowers, that is, an angled assemblage of LED screens flashing with pixellated, vaguely floral imagery, like a barrage of solar panels. That suggested the direction of his latest Dior collection: modernity. Namely, dragging the Dior woman out of her garden and onto the streets of an eminently real urban metropolis. What that really means is that Simons by and large ditched the ball gowns and kitted his women out in suit, after suit, after impeccably cut suit.

 

There were dresses, of course. But a trio of sheer spangled slips at the end felt like an afterthought. The crux of Simons' winter message came in his impeccable suiting, a carry-over from his own menswear background, forming a hybrid with the innately, intensely feminine sphere of Dior. The tension was still there, but you weren't wondering if Simons' Dior was going to work. It did, gloriously. The tension came from anticipating what he would do next, where he would push us, and Dior.

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