“Pure and calm,” said Raf Simons, creative director of Christian Dior. Backstage, however, the singer Rihanna facing off photographers in her blush-pink coat was not conducive to peace and order.
But on the Dior runway, where the designer’s dexterous mix of knitted tops with soft shorts like Victorian lingerie, made the outfits seem fresh, relaxed and viable.
Even a fluffy coat, with smocking and embroidery on clotted-cream wool, seemed as straightforward as the dark tailoring based on the famous curvy “Bar” suit of 1947. That date appeared on decorative chokers, as a subtle reminder of Dior’s history.
Raf Simons with Rihanna, backstage after his S/S 2016 show for Dior in Paris
Although Simons suggested that his touches of Victoriana were just a backward glance to the past while focusing on fashion’s present and future, I wondered if there was more to the transparent materials, so subtly decorated.
Had the designer perhaps seen the compelling and seductive art exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, “Splendours and Miseries”, about prostitution in the Belle Époque? Was there more to the transparent chiffon, the lingerie and the dainty shoes with bows at the ankle? More to the point, can any woman step out only partially covered, without suggesting a deliberate display of flesh? The flimsy, filmy base will surely be a tough sell at retail.
Yet what a stride Simons himself has taken since his first show for Dior with flowers smothering the walls! The floral element was still there as banks of deep blue delphiniums, but the decoration seemed less hothouse and more natural.
“A South of France landscape, like a lavender or a sunflower field — things that are very pure and beautiful,” the designer said, as though he were drawing a deep, calm breath in a fashion period when, as he put it, “it is not only the clothes and shows, but communication and the Internet.”
The collection was as significant in what it did not show, as what was on the runway, as soft shades of pink and yellow and some bold vertical stripes appeared.
There were no grand evening gowns, because that can be taken care of by Dior haute couture. There was nothing “Madame” style for Parisians, nor flamboyant for the international wealth-set.
Simons has achieved his goal: making Dior seem related to the modern world. With just a peppering of past, future and sensual depth.