Christian Dior / Spring 2014
Intimacy. Reality. Raf Simons opens the show amidst a jungle. Layering beneath a hanging garden of thousands of lianas and orchids and wisteria. It created a beautiful metaphor for a collection that was jungle dense and mash-up of ideas. That’s another way of saying that couture should feel modern — or, perhaps useful is a better word — without sacrificing the craft and quality essential to the genre, a way of saying that deliriously rich women need clothes that function, too. It’s a point Simons has striven to incorporate into the Dior vernacular (ever so stealthily at first) for several seasons. He’s a modernist at heart.
In this subversive spirit, he spliced those floral prints, punk-style, with cryptic word art. In the same mood, the show opened with the classic hourglass Dior jacket—now deconstructed to wrap around the torso—its traditional mid-century pleated skirts reduced to the tropical flower print, sunray-pleated, chiffon flounces ruffling from beneath the hem of trim little fitted shorts. More successful were the pleats used on the bias for a slithery little black dress or for asymmetrical skirts with a surprising cut-out reveal on one hip. There was more bodily revelation when Raf gave a pinstripe cotton shirtdress the cold shoulder treatment, for instance, anchoring its bodice at the collar but cutting away those shoulders and back for a sense of sly modern allure. Filmy knits and translucent organzas in Raf’s quirky color palette (vivid orange with soft mauve; grass green with blush pink) revealed the body beneath, whilst an overlay of black car-wash panels flashed the vivid print of the underdresses as the girls moved. Accessories were strong—asymmetrical, dense clusters of dripping jewels that tumbled from neck and wrists like those exotic vines hanging above, and shoes with ovoid cut-outs in contrast colors that suggested the ergonomic design of a Formula 1 racer’s helmet.
Rabanne in trapeze shifts. Yet Simons eschewed his inspirations’ typical structure for softness, cutting light fabrics in clean, breezy shapes. His primary decorative motif: repetitive patterns — circle, eye, heart — embroidered onto the fabric, half of each shape cut out and often sewn with jewels for a 3-D effect.
The tone-on-tone graphics in white, black and navy looked lovely, and particularly fresh in white. Cases in point: the show opener, an asymmetric A-line affair that countered circles on top with horizontal pleats on the bottom; a strapless wisp of a dress done up with feathers and a half-hem flounce.
As a change of pace, Simons made a case for chic tailored jumpsuits and matching trouser-and-top ensembles. Another real world nod (of sorts): the embellished couture sneaker, a tony shodding option that will make at least one more appearance this season, atChanel.
Though much of the collection played beautifully into the concept of haute reality, it was not without difficulty. That’s because Simons hedged his bets. While an embroidered blue-and-white party dress with off-kilter half-apron read as genuine, other dresses featured retro appendages — overlays, poufs, peplums — that felt antithetical to Simons’ primary message. As his audience waits and longs for riveting Simons-dazzles-for-Dior blockbuster à la his last several seasons at Jil Sander, he seems more reticent now than then, unwilling as yet to make so definitive and unwavering a statement.
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