Charlize Theron, in a silvered, bare-back dress, her partner Sean Penn in tow, fought her way backstage at the Dior show on Monday, to pay homage to Raf Simons, who must have received as many kisses as there were snow-white orchids on the tent walls.
It was an ‘Alleluia!’ moment for the fashion crowd and for Bernard Arnault, president of LVMH Moët Hennessy. For, two years after taking the helm at Dior, Simons finally hit perfect pitch – where there was just enough of his personal aesthetic, balanced against the legacy of Christian Dior.
The clothes were exceptional for their historic reach, worn so very lightly. Behind the opening dresses, their skirts ballooning softly from the hips, was a faint shadow of Marie Antoinette. Corsets from the Belle Époque were upended as mini skirts, decorated with delicate stitches.
‘I never thought I would be looking at Marie Antoinette as a 20th-century astronaut!’ — Raf Simons
On a different register, elongated peacoats swept the floor, while courtiers’ coats were dense with embroidery. Both were shown over nonchalant sweaters and pants.
Dior’s famous ‘Bar’ jacket, the most iconic of references, was updated by a soft, round collar.
There were even astronaut jumpsuits to bring a space age vibe. But, like the silver eyeliner worn throughout, the outer space references were light-handed.
Every piece of this collection, divided into eight parts, was wearable, desirable and showed the ineffable skills of the Dior ateliers. The ‘petites mains’ worked decoration into the fabric as jacquard or pleating, giving a feeling of lightness and modernity.
‘I never thought I would be looking at history from the 18th century – Marie Antoinette as an astronaut from 2000!’ said Raf Simons. ‘But I don’t see this as one collection. It is eight different passages with one aesthetic language.’
Translation: the clothes were for a modern woman who might one day want a loose-and-easy dress with the feel of a 1920s flapper; or one of those flawless, floor-length coats in fur.
Perhaps the best way to describe the collection is that it had a sweetness without sugar. The tailoring, drawn from Simons’ menswear background, was exemplary. But the fine art of decoration, using jacquard as well as embroidery, seemed fresh and new. The show was both very Raf. And very Dior.
And it was very good.