To say that today’s Christian Dior Haute Couture show was possibly the most anticipated fashion moment of the past decade is probably no hyperbole. John Galliano’s demise held the fashion sphere, and the world at large, captivated in dismay for days, even weeks, and what followed was almost a year and a half’s worth of red herrings concerning the designer destined to fill such big shoes. Dozens of names were thrown in a whirlpool of speculation, a bureaucratic frenzy consumed the minds of the head honchos at LVMH, and about six separate seasons past in between, when the rest of the fashion world begrudgingly partook in the biggest fashion audition of all time. Noble beginners, like Jason Wu and Alexander Wang, were added to the mix early on in the guessing game, which gained the traction of a whodunit, as well as noted stalwarts like Azzedine Alaia (who flat-out refused the offer), Marc Jacobs (who bowed out after his business partner Robert Duffy’s accompanying fee wasn’t quite met) and Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci (who knows he’s already sitting on gold). Was it irony or a display good ol’ sportsmanship, that the latter trio all sat front-row to salute Raf Simons at his debut show for Dior? Maybe a little of both.
Simons’ first point of order on marrying his sensibility to that of Christian Dior’s (not John Galliano’s) was tackling the house’s iconic Bar jacket. The flared waist was a predominant silhouette throughout, starting off with a structured Bar suit with silk cigarette pants. One of the most dazzling tops to take on the delicate shape came lined in thick tulle, tufting underneath a soft pink floral embroidery that cascaded upwards and spilled at the decollete into a cobalt lamp shade cut. The Bar flare would later turn into cocoons on strapless tea dresses imbued with what looked like acid tie dyes, or Hubble telescope images of nebula, but in fact, were silk woven reproductions of contemporary artist Sterling Ruby’s paintings. Another strapless number, cinched at the waist with a solid silver band, may have been all mink.
The Simons/Dior synthesis is an exhilarating thing to see unraveled. The footwear looked plucked directly from the runways of Simons’ swan song at Jil Sander, while the ghostly pink on a strapless dress with geometric pleated cups, was undoubtedly so. The bust has become a big focal point for Simons as of late, and here it produced a healthy dose of carnality in a black sheer top that matched a bustling blue embroidered cocoon skirt, and most noticeably so, on a chartreuse long-sleeve tee paired with a matching floor-length skirt. The greatest example of Simons’ mien and dexterity with the material, came through in the collection’s second predominant silhouette, bustier ball gowns spliced down the middle to reveal those same provocative cigarette pants. Articulated in a vibrant fuschia, it was as chic as anything Simons has ever made. And to end things he off, he referenced the menswear collection from his eponymous line, that debuted less than a week ago, with princess dresses encrusted in a cascade of beaded flowers on the front, with the same effect on a second dress altogether paneling the back.
The whole occasion was a master class in shape and color, at the couture level no less, and Simons is merely catching his footing. The shape of those garments, that at moments recalled chrysalis, and the million flowers that covered from floor to ceiling the five salons that made up the space, serve as the perfect metaphor for Raf Simons’ debut at Christian Dior. The metamorphosis (really, the synthesis) of the menswear hero and womenswear couturier; as for the flowers in bloom? -, a dream manifest. A stretch perhaps. But for those who live for this kind of story, we’ll remember where we were when it happened.