A trick of the eye. Isn’t that what haute couture is ultimately about, that ability for some of the most incredible designers and technicians in the world to manipulate the corporeal into the ethereal, mastering the material act of making clothes to the extent it becomes magical? If it is, then Raf Simons scores a perfect ten, as do the Dior ateliers who work for him, for his brilliant, beautiful, and oftentimes breathtaking fall 2015 couture collection. Ostensibly, the mission was this: Transform into clothes the heavenly delights and the earthbound pleasures contained in Hieronymus Bosch’s early-sixteenth-century triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, housed at the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
DIOR Fall 2015 Couture presentation at Musée Rodin
via Instagram by @andreajankeofficial
Simons, however, is a designer who likes to layer and layer his reference points in ways that are wholly of our time; watching them unfold as you sit through one of his shows is like scrolling through Instagram; past and future, high culture and pop culture, the avant-garde and the street, all flowing together to bring you to only one placethe present. For him, then, couture of today can be created from the artful manipulation of whatever inspires him, regardless of time or place or cultural standing.
So there were, in the cape-like coats with single fur sleeves and pleated linings, some worn atop and not underneath, hints of the Flemish school of painting that has fascinated him for decades, and spoke to his own Antwerpian roots. There were draped cowl tweed collars that touched on his eternal interest in mid-century design flourishes. The seventies silhouette, given a sharp and impressive spin here, worked the traditional Dior Bar jackets into looser tailoring worn with puddling flares in most un-couture like corduroy; some of those coats and jackets bore a new sleeve shape worked to reference that iconic 1947 jut-hipped jacket. Meanwhile, the glittered up platform sandals screamed club kid. And Simons drew on the late-nineteenth-century art technique of Pointillism, turning print, embroidery, hand-painting techniques, and plumes into gently pastel-toned floral patterns which revealed their origins the closer you got to them.
As for the Bosch masterpiece, it was the starting point for taking a narratively dense canvas into the lightest of clothes, contrasting angelic, virginal embroidered white silk chiffon gowns with looks that spoke much more of the pleasures of the flesh, namely a series of embroidered and printed dresses, provocatively revealing an expanse of naked skin. If Simons’s work has in the past mined a deep seam of controlled sensuality, these carried a newer, more straightforward sexual charge, and that was no trick of the eye.
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Photo Credit/Source: The House of DIOR
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Fairies are real on the Atelier VERSACE runway, at least. For Fall, Donatella and co. sent out a parade of delicate pieces inspired by the flora and fauna of the forest. “It’s a bit romantic,” said Donatella Versace, sounding a touch surprised at herself. “I’m not a piece of wood all the time!” So here was a softened-up, tendrilly vision for Atelier Versace: couture festival girls in garlanded headbands, vaguely Renaissance-medieval sleeves, and raw-edged chiffon trailing off in ethereal directions on a glass runway paved over hundreds of mauve, purple, and green orchids.