Thursday, 5 July 2012

Couture Roundup: Raf Simons' First Turn as Dior Creative Director

The wait ended on Tuesday at 14h30. The Fashion world literally lined up to attend what was surely one of the most-anticipated creative hookups in years; prodigious designer Raf Simons' premier collection as Head of the House of Dior, which manifested itself in the form of his SS13 Haute Couture presentation in Paris this week.

The front row was almost as glittery as the creative offerings themselves; from actresses like Marion Cotillard and Jennifer Lawrence, to an array of faces normally confined to the other side of the catwalk curtain- we saw Marc Jacobs, skirted and booted, Donatella Versace and her junior, Allegra and Haider Ackerman, modern titans who had come to witness the first fruits of the relationship begun between the stately House of Dior and a smart, understated and visionary Belgian.

The collection was presented in truly sumptuous house style, played out across three rooms filled with a million colour grouped flowers.
This dramatic backdrop was maybe the only gesture that made made a viewer think directly of the 'old days'- the flowers displaying a level of decadence that the Dior chief's controversial predecessor might well have approved of.

Against this colourful background, the collection came out. And such is the dissidence between this new designer's collection and previous offerings chez Dior, that at first it was hard to adjust- leaving many, including myself, feeling confused at first glance.

But Galliano Syndrome- that is, a dependence on the glitz of coquettish frou frou- is just something that we have been conditioned to expect after a decade of seasons presided over by the ex-Dior head.  As such, to appreciate the new direction of the label, it is essential to approach Simon's efforts with an open mind.

As soon as you do this, everything changes. Simons has thrown down the gauntlet with this first showcase, in more ways than one. Dior's stock pastel colours, for example, took a backseat to some of the primary hues which marked one of the two most distinctive features of this collection. Lemony, structured, masterful dresses, were intermixed with bold pieces in vermillion and cerulean as well as ample, ample black and printed, multishade silk. There were light colours- but despite this inclusion the froth and frivolity seen in previous Dior collections was notably subdued in favour of a more distinctive, elegant and minimalist silhouette of a modern woman... one that will not have disappointed fans of Simon's previous output, renowned for these features.

The wish to draw a line under the work of his controversial predecessor didn't stop at cut. Simons' inclusion of a unique texture resembling cut wool or even balled tissue paper reflects the direction this designer wishes to take in his new role. To fill the gaping legacy left by Galliano is no mean feat for even the most experienced of couturiers, and what Simons does through the usage of this kind of fabric technology is to set out his mission statement: unafraid to mould the brand to reflect the personal, innovative and highly developed style which has already won him so many admirers, and probably his new seat at the head of this house.

The only concern I'd take away from this otherwise well-executed new chapter in Dior's history is that we might start to see a monopolisation of Simons' time as the head of this label, which could divert him away from his original creations with his eponymous line. If we're really lucky, Raf will follow front-row attendee Marc Jacobs in continuing to successfully produce his own line alongside his responsabilities at Dior. We'll see.

Kat Rutherford in Paris.

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