Raf Simons modernised the Dior look with mutated animal prints in Paris / EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

When Simons announced that his intention was 'the invention of a new species', I couldn’t help but relate his grandiose statement to the new species of woman Dior is attracting

Was it rash to dub yesterday fashion’s D-day? If the D stands for Dior, probably not. It was the day of Raf Simons’ autumn/winter 2015 Dior presentation, one of the biggest on the biannual fashion calendar.

It was also the day of former Dior creative director John Galliano’s first ready-to-wear collection for the house of Margiela, and four years to the day that his eponymous line presented its first collection without the founder to take his customarily histrionic bow (the latest will take place on Sunday). Old Dior versus New Dior. Let the face-off commence.

Actually, that’s an uncomfortable and, more to the point, uninteresting comparison to make. Dior is dead - Galliano’s Dior at least. Long live Simons’ Dior. This collection further consolidated the new identity he has forged, rapidly and convincingly, for the label. Indeed, when Simons announced that his intention was “the invention of a new species,” I couldn’t help but relate his grandiose statement to the new species of woman Dior is attracting: younger, tougher, less fixated on the frou-frou. A new breed of customer, for a new kind of clothing.

For winter, that clothing came in animal print. Not traditional, brash stripes or spots, but something mutated and twisted. More than anything else, they resembled moth’s wings, or camouflage perhaps. A series of perforated patent-leather separates resembled glistening reptilian skin, their similarities highlighted when teamed with highly polished crocodile. Other garments were shredded, tears flaying tweed away from the body or chewed it into tattered strips.

Raf Simons is nothing if not ambitious in his intentions, and his inventions, at Christian Dior. But after Miuccia Prada dedicated her collection to genetic modification, scrambling the XX chromosomes and mutating a new kind of femininity from its stereotypical signifiers, it doesn’t seem so out of place for Simons to splice the human with something animal. Actually, it is there in the roots of the house - conservatively manifested, mind. Monsieur Dior loved a bit of leopard-print. The animalistic Dior woman isn’t Simons’ pure invention.

Nevertheless, it has never been quite so beastly before. Meaning that, rather than sanitised and neutered, there was something raw to his Dior woman. It’s arguable how much that relates to the Dior of old, to chi-chi mink coats and panther-painted silk chiffon. Times, however, have changed. Simons outing had an energy and savage grace. It felt modern.

 

Did John Galliano’s Maison Margiela show feel modern? No. But that was never his thing. In the past, he used evocative mise-en-scenes, painstaking recreated as catwalks, to anchor his clothes in mythical histories. At Margiela, he has established showing in antiseptic white spaces, letting his clothes tell the story. Or rather, relying on them.

The story they’re currently relaying is the journey of an English romantic back into fashion, via the unexpected route of a Belgian deconstructionist. It’s a story with quite a few twists and turns. Most, thankfully, are good. A few, granted, loop back on themselves, referencing Galliano shows past - the oversized shoes, say, which Galliano showed in a 2000 collection dedicated to childhood and the gleeful joy of toddlers playing dress up. “Innocence” was a word Galliano mentioned, in the notes to accompany the collection. After over thirty years in the business, perhaps its natural to hanker after simpler times, and simpler pleasures.

Certainly, Galliano captured some of that old joy afresh in his debut Margiela ready-to-wear show - and, rather than set-dressing, the joy was encapsulated in the clothes, expressing the childish glee of dressing up. Revelling in his freedom, Galliano turned jackets upside down, inside out, letting garments hang from shoulders with a piquant mischief.

It certainly wasn’t Dior - let’s get that straight - even though there were echoes of the controversial collection Galliano created inspired by the frayed and tattered clothes of the Parisian homeless, that caused riots outside Dior’s headquarters on the Avenue Montaigne. It hadn’t the pomp nor the circumstance Galliano frequently inflated those presentations with. It also didn’t have Dior’s budget (despite its Grand Palais showspace) nor revenue expectations: Margiela turns over roughly £72m, Dior around £21bn. Neither was it Margiela, regardless of the shredded and ripped hems, coats turned inside-out and frayed artistically. It was pure Galliano. And that was great to see.

What will be even more impressive is if, over time, Galliano can rein in his personal impulses and seek to give Margiela a handwriting its founder - and his many fans - will recognise. But for now, let him play. Genius is, after all, childhood recovered at will.

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