As he did with his last collection for Maison Dior, Raf Simons served up an eclectic mix of looks for this latest showing of Dior Haute Couture.
Taking place in a futuristic circular construction in the back gardens of the Musée Rodin, Mr. Simons presented a collection that is as varied and romantic as Paris itself. It’s clear that he drew his inspiration directly from the city’s history, taking cues from iconic looks of Parisian fashion, adding features from the house of Dior- and mixing it with urban elements that are synonymous with the city’s modern working woman.
Some of the themes that Mr. Simons has touched upon in the past have returned in this collection to be explored in much greater depth and detail. Issues centering around women, power, and gender equality were assessed in this runway show. It sounds a little heavy with these themes probably being more appropriate for a university thesis than a fashion show, but Mr. Simons has previously shown that exploring such concepts has allowed him to create absolutely dazzling fashion.
The theme of this season focuses on taking historical designs and reworking them for modern life. In many ways Mr. Simons aimed to interconnect both past and future, and present them in startlingly current terms. Thus he sent reworked versions of the great coat, astrakhan coats, 1920’s shift dresses, boiler suits, Marie Antoinette worthy corsets and brocade gowns down the runway. These bold pieces were often paired with everyday staples like miniskirts, tailored trousers, Tee-shirts and turtlenecks to produce stunningly futuristic results. It sounds messy, but was a meaningful and coherent statement to the collection’s theme of exploration.
It was Raf Simons’ version of a concept album, with the presentation showcasing over 60 looks that extended over six segments- each section highlighting remarkably different types of dress.
The show started on a simple note with structured 18th century-inspired evening gowns, complete with tight corsets, panniers and delicate embroidery. This ‘princess’ look was slowly deconstructed and blended with hints of the segment’s other style inspiration- astronauts! Gradually, starched skirts transformed into baggy skirts and then coveralls- corsets became heavy belts and fragile embellishments were replaced with utilitarian decorations.
From there the utilitarian theme took over the show, this practical look becoming downright businesslike in certain areas, with the designer experimenting with deconstructed versions of almost every type of coat and jacket. Beautifully rendered in velvet, silk and fur, embroidered with crystals and metallic threads, these handsome cover-ups were paired with plain separates to produce looks that wouldn’t be out of place in any young professional’s wardrobe.
From maxi-length jackets, to Edwardian frock coats and sharp double-breasted jackets, Mr. Simons refurbished them all over the course of the next four segments- even Dior’s iconic Bar coat was updated!
Dresses and mod-inspired skirt suits were shown in conjunction with these workplace-ready ensembles, giving the audience an idea to what could be worn under under the heavy coats. Elegant and unfussy, these looks are perfect examples of outfits that would work from day to night in many business settings and events. Easily wearable and adaptable enough to mix-and-match every item, Raf Simons’ Dior provides the modern jet-setting business woman with a complete wardrobe that is appropriate for almost any occasion.
Evening wear was shown yet again, but this time with the sleek lines and straight hems that made up the quintessential look of the 1920s. Here, a casual approach to the flapper dress was taken with opaque beading, unfussy floral patterns and plain net-lined lace rendering an iconic look in simple, modern terms.
The collection came full circle with the final segment being a return to the princess dresses that opened the show. Stripped bare of most adornment and with lush tulle skirts dangling unsupported, it was a the modern version of the ball gown. Bare tops flare seamlessly into full skirts, while frivolous peplums and corsets are stripped of their padding and reduced to simple flattened panels that suggested the same silhouette in a more relaxed way.
Overall, I think it’s a beautiful collection, varied in it’s inspiration- and although somewhat disorientating in it’s scope, on the whole, it’s a cohesive and technically impressive production. In the show notes, Mr. Simons said the collection was about bringing “the attitude of contemporary reality to something very historical,” thereby finding something modern in the result. This concept collection suggests he might have done just that.
In many ways he may have even surpassed the idea of modern dressing with some of his looks becoming downright futuristic in their pairings and accessories. By looking to the past for inspiration, Mr. Simons has produced a collection that is not just about the house and its legacy, but which seeks to address Mr. Simons’ own cultural musings.
Raf Simons has said in the past that he, “wanted to present women with freedom and possibilities in the way they dress,” and he does this by removing the restrictive features of dress. By stripping fussy skirts of their voluminous underpinnings, by unlacing corsets and removing pads, Mr. Simons’s Dior allows women to move freely while still maintaining the drama and elegance of Dior Haute Couture. By eliminating all of it’s uncomfortable confinements, Mr. Simons strives to preserve the time-honored tradition of couture by making it compatible with contemporary life.
Acknowledging the need to preserve such a fabled house’s heritage while making it relevant to today’s standards is not an easy task. Nor is honoring the past while altering it to anticipate the future, but Raf Simons manages to do it again- and with exceptional talent, in his Dior Haute Couture fall 2015 presentation.