Last Tuesday, in the gardens of the Musée Rodin in Paris, Raf Simons presented his Spring/Summer 2014 Haute Couture collection for DIOR ...
When Raf Simons arrived at Christian Dior nearly two years ago, he had to personally meet every single member of the ateliers who painstakingly labor to create things of such lyrical beauty that oftentimes it barely looks like a human hand has ever touched them. Flash ahead to this week, and Simons used his exquisite spring 2014 couture to honor all that les petites mains do at Dior.
It's in movement, too, that the incredible layering of fabrics really comes to the fore, a dozen layers of transparency through whose thicknesses, openwork and voiles the eye travels to pick out the motifs that repeat into infinity. An embroidery on a navy blue dress is identical to the silk jacquard on the transparent black coat covering it. Circles, round shapes that aren't quite round, ovoid enmeshments, elongated hearts. And underneath: little bouquets of flowers whose beaded pistils seem to tinkle when they move. Everything is of an unexpected delicacy almost as if the dresses don't have bodies inside them. And this is exactly what Raf Simons was aiming for. It's a collection focused on intimacy and femininity, on the link that unites woman and couturier, going as far as each ones personality. In haute couture, each outfit is unique. As is each woman who wears it.
His imprint was all over this collection, make no mistake: Simons riffed on the Christian Dior-isms the Bar jackets, the inflated and cascading volumes, the flowers that carry a deep whiff of nostalgia for Monsieur Dior that the Belgian designer has managed to simultaneously respect and subvert ever since he arrived, through his decidedly non-historicist use of pattern, decoration, and proportions, all this colored by a sense of sexual politics. This time around, that meant intimacy, transparency, and the rise of feminism against the futuristic imaginings of André Courrèges and Paco Rabanne some 40 years ago. And yet this was the most couture of Simons’s haute couture collections, a formalist (and joyous) study of what the house’s ateliers are capable of. To underscore their importance, Dior staged a show for those who actually made the collection, allowing them to see their considerable efforts live and breathe before them. Simons might have bounded out to take the bow at the finale, but really what he was doing was saying, “Everyone at Dior, this one’s for you.”
The previous day, at a preview, Simons said of the collection, “It’s really the first time that there is no concept; it’s much more abstract than that.” All the better to let the work speak for itself, pushing the lightness, the dimensionality, and the levels of craftsmanship, so if one piece of cloudy organdy, mapped with rows of hand-worked, embroidered, and folded circular cutouts, gets messed up, it has to be discarded and started over from scratch. During the preview, the eye would catch sight of some heartrendingly gorgeous notions: 3-D floral sequins bunched into circles and surrounded by yet more organdy; a delicate, otherworldly material in pale pink or seafoam green that takes hundreds of hours to knit; and the geometric gauzy leaves built into a fabric as layered and as light as a mille-feuille.
Outstanding though these techniques were, did the clothes live up to them? Yes, most definitely. Something else Simons has charged himself with: to make couture live beyond the red carpet. And there was certainly plenty here that could easily cross over into real life. You could see that in the cocoon dresses, in that fretworked organdy, or the gorgeous floral silk coats over soft tops and fluid pants, or the house-classic hourglass jacket rendered in navy, traced with nicks, and worn atop lean trousers and the brilliant buckled silver mesh pumps. Elsewhere, and with the Academy Awards approaching, the red carpet, where Simons has recently been triumphing, was on the mind. Come the big night, it would be wonderful to see an actress, or ten, in the likes of his super-elegant beaded jumpsuits that were almost sporty in their ease, or the inky navy full-skirted dresses to below the knee, some with trains, and embroidered to look almost like a couturified sports mesh, worn with beaded sneakers. And to those worried about making too much of a statement, they should take their cue from Raf Simons and his way with couture: Be daring, be different, only move forward.
Selections by ANDREA JANKE Finest Accessories
Photo Credit/Source: The House of DIOR / VOGUE
Photos: Yannis Vlamos, InDigitalimages / Kevin Tachman
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