Tuesday 3 July 2012

Paris Haute Couture | Christian Dior by Raf Simons

Christian Dior Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2012/13 by Raf Simons

Fashion had seen nothing like it for years. Outside in the street, there was hysteria. Inside, the industry's great and good Alaïa, Elbaz, Jacobs, Theyskens, Tisci, Van Assche, Versace, von Furstenberg gathered to see Raf Simons debut his first haute couture collection for Christian Dior. That it would be a success seemed a given, what with the evolving polish and confidence of Simons' "couture trilogy" for his previous employer, Jil Sander. That it would be such a triumph was a thrill. The avant-garde outsider from Antwerp insinuated himself into the hallowed history of haute couture with a tour de force that had both emotional and intellectual resonance. As the man himself said, "A shift is happening."

Enjoy Christian Dior Fall 2012 Couture fashion show at the end of this post! 

LoL, Andrea

In what was surely the most anticipated show of this Paris couture season, Raf Simons set out to recalibrate the codes of the storied house of Christian Dior through his own modernist lens. “It’s about changing the attitude,” he said, and celebrating “the uniqueness of the craft.”

The result was a quietly referential ode to the hourglass silhouette launched by the house’s eponymous founder in the icy spring of 1947, reinterpreted with Simons’s assured eye for artful simplicity. Christian Dior’s line was deliberately backward-looking even then, after the grim years of the Occupation, he wanted to recapture the feminine glamour of his mother’s Belle Époque ensembles, and to transform his mannequins and clients into blooming and blossoming and extravagantly womanly archetypes. To turn the iconic look into a believable modern proposition was a challenge that Simons accomplished in his own quietly persuasive way.

He began with a setting of fairy-tale beauty that evoked Christian Dior’s passion for flowers (he named that debut “New Look” collection for a flower’s corolla), calling on the Antwerp-based florist Mark Colle to decorate a series of five rooms in a stately Parisian hôtel particulier until the walls were solid with blooms, one the intense blue of massed blue delphiniums, others of yellow laburnums, or pink-tinged white orchids, whilst the Christian Dior room was a ravishing symphony of pink and yellow rose, peony, and dahlia blossoms.

Simons built on the small-waisted, roundly peplumed jacket of an ensemble in that corolla collection named Bar, - a jacket cut by the young tailor Pierre Cardin, who celebrated his 90th birthday in the Dior front row alongside fellow Dior alums Jean-Louis Scherrer and star mannequin Victoire Doutreleau, and designers Donatella Versace (with her daughter, Allegra Beck), Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, Azzedine Alaïa, Alber Elbaz, Riccardo Tisci, Christopher Kane, Olivier Theyskens, and L’Wren Scott. (Meanwhile the Hitchcock blondes Princess Charlene of Monaco, Jennifer Lawrence, and Sharon Stone faced off against Marion Cotillard across the runway).

In place of exuberant runway extravaganzas that have defined Dior couture since the ladylike days of designer Marc Bohan (statements that almost invariably had to be heavily adapted for the couture clients), Raf’s propositions were singularly wearable and showed that in a relatively short time he has managed to harness the talents of the fabled Dior couture ateliers to his vision of restrained contemporary elegance.

The accessories were telling: Stephen Jones, known in the past for his flamboyant millinery statements for the house, this time created the simplest of face veils to shadow Pat McGrath’s makeup of sky-blue winged eye shadow and blotted scarlet lips; jewelry was pared to choker collars of massed clusters of single-color gemstones; and the shoes, including an inverted comma heel inspired by a Roger Vivier design from the 1950s, were also understated, if often in a startling accent color that highlighted Raf’s idiosyncratic color sense a metallic-blue heel with a candy-pink dress, say, or a short evening dress of black gazar worn with a shocking-pink heel.

And what of the clothes? Simons used pants in a modern way, pairing that curvaceous jacket (with subtly placed pockets and asymmetric pleats and folds) with a lean-cut trouser, or scissoring an elaborate ball dress, with classical mid-century embroidery, to mid-calf, transforming it into an exaggerated peplum again worn over narrow-leg pants. A strapless ball dress composed of layers of inky blue tulle opened to reveal black dress pants, for a dashing contemporary take on white-tie dressing, and a slithery evening sheath of scarlet crepe, open in back to reveal yet another pair of pants, showed that Simons is having fun with the flou atelier as well as the tailors chez Dior.

There was a lightness of touch to open-weave silks in dainty pastels, and Simons revealed his passion for mid-century art in the painterly drip-print satins he used for a wide-cut evening swing coat and a sumptuous Watteau-backed ball dress.

The fur evening dresses, a black mink bodice melting into a broadtail pencil skirt and an oatmeal broadtail peplum tunic over a pantsuit lacked the unforced elegance that otherwise characterized Simons’s approach, but there were embroideries of fronds of black bugle beads densely sewn on their ends and tipped with scarlet or chrome yellow that were an exquisite evocation of fur fronds. There were further quietly dazzling embroideries in the house tradition notably the tiny organza blossom florets scattered in ombre formation over a full-skirted short evening dress, or the clipped feathers applied in broad horizontal stripes of ice blue and soft beige to another romantic ballet-length ball dress. There was subtle drama, too, to the dresses, with one embroidery motif and color forming the front, and another the back, for a dramatic exit.

“It was very emotional,” said Cardin after the nostalgic show, admiring the fraîcheur of Simons’s approach, and his decision to begin with a collection founded on a “classic base.” It was an authoritative, reverential debut, and promised that the ever-intriguing Simons will doubtless take us on more adventurous outings in seasons to come.

Selections by ANDREA JANKE Finest Accessories

Photo Credit/Source: The House of DIOR
Photography by Yannis Vlamos/GoRunway 

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