Raf Simons is taking the slow path towards molding his new glamorous poppet – the treasured house of Dior, and he’s smart to do so. Between his first two couture shows and the Fall ready-to-wear collection, Simons has done well to rally his troupe of touches continuously throughout, like the metallic footwear, the shocking and vibrant makeup, the nippings and slashes, leading his captivated audience ever so gently towards a point past the zenith, when he just speeds away with all the gifts the house atelier has to offer; a day when he knows his haute couture like he knows his menswear. Simons spent his last years at Jil Sander answering the call of the art with his ‘Couture Trilogy’, but now that he’s been given the keys to the kingdom, who knew he’d bask with such giddy pleasure.
Simons’ sophomore show was beguiling, yet plausible couture. Experiments tightly fastened to the real world. Save for the midway parade of bubble dresses bedecked in gems and baubles like the most extravagant of faberge’ eggs, hardly anything on offer felt like a stretch. Even those pieces would mollify the old-timers that have been knocking on the atelier’s door for decades now. If you want real life, you look to the powerful Bar jacket ensembles on Caroline Brasch Nielsen and Kinga Rajzak. Those two were quiet killers. They had power-bitch gravitas, many thanks due to that anachronistic pixie cut wig, courtesy of Guido Palau.
Spring itself was the grand muse of the day, but even something as archetypal and piquant couldn’t keep Simons from striking an audacious note amidst all those notions of nature, fertility and becoming. It takes as much conviction as it does vision to send a pair of watermelon pink tights down a runway this wrought in fashion prestige, and live to get the kudos. Surely no designer in recent memory has championed the notion of the sexy citron gown. That one is a hilarious, victorious Simons original. But it was layering that proved to be the riskiest gambit and the most rewarding. Only the skill set of a couture atelier can deliver on the promise of a perfectly cascaded bell-shaped top nestled perfectly over an equally considered three-tiered skirt.
Like his first couture show, this was another floral explosion. Flowers set the perfect precedent for bling. One sheer tea dress, furiously embroidered with yellow and orange buds, was so fragile and pristine it looked like a glazed sugar sculpture. An eye-catching bolero with yellow and black beads sat above a red and black bead bustier top ending in Simons’ somber cigarette pants. For more than a few seasons now, the fashion world has been hit with floral embroidery ad nauseum, but who can begrudge Simons’ black column gown with a rosette slash of tulle bedecked in rosettes going down the bias, culminating in an ever so neat train in the back? Yeah, no one, that’s who.
He may be the new kid on the block where haute couture is concerned, but Simons has more than proven his mettle with womenswear, and this time, he wasn’t so wary about showing his own stamp on things. The slash on the shoulder of a dark green asymmetrical dress was nuts and bolts Raf. Dresses in silk bisected by panels of sheer, fissures, clashing juxtapositions – that’s part of the Simons credo. But there’s another preoccupation that wasn’t so clear until now – in Spring, the bride must be defined. We’ve seen the Jil Sander bride and now we’ve seen the Dior bride, and she’s a vision.
Earlier this week Oscar de la Renta announced that he would open his New York studio for three or more weeks to Simons’ Dior predecessor, the disgraced John Galliano. Industry insiders and fans alike welcome the notion of a triumphant Galliano comeback, and a good amount of the public that has grown up with Galliano’s Dior have been unkind to Simons’ honorable command. But all that naysaying couldn’t possibly matter. The work itself, if this last show has anything to say about it, should prove its own prescription.