Myself and every design obsessed friend I know stayed up lastnight to watch the live-stream of Raf Simons' first collection for the house of Dior, Haute Couture Fall 12. The chilly 1am start (in this part of the world) and imperfect live-stream still didn't fail to dampen the triumphant, beautiful debut collection as Simons lived up to all the industry's anticipation and hope of this iconic moment.
Rather than a dramatic debut, Simons returned to the sensitivity and architecture of Mr Dior's original work showing couture with femininity, elegance and ease. Gone are the theatrics and post-irony of Galliano's tenure, and in their place is an exquisite, measured reinvention of what contemporary couture can be.
Naturally the experts can articulate this reception of this the best, and I've included what I felt were the most poignant and well said statements below. However I do want to talk about what resonated the most with me. For couture to survive it has to have relevance and modernity, best expressed in the sharp suit worn by Julia Nobis that opened the show and another that followed soon after. Tuxedo jackets that reference the iconic Bar shape (nipped waist, padded hips) paired with sharp, impeccably cut cigarette pants.
Likewise this achingly beautiful shade of pink (that appeared in that final Jil Sander collection) was revisited here - enhanced further by the nostalgia and femininity of the the silhouette.
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."
Dior was obviously the guiding spirit of his fascination with midcentury couture during his last seasons with Sander. But he approached an actual couture collection with an appropriate balance of reverence and iconoclasm.
That was the kind of subtle personal flourish that married his own story to Dior's history. It also underlined how much of an asset Simons will be not just to Dior but to couture itself. He can't help himself; he will bring a heart-on-his-sleeve human dimension to this remote and rarefied world.
Pristine ivory astrakan fur on the look on the left. A sensitive, contemporary and less ostentatious use of fur than we usually see at luxury houses. Yet another example of the modernity and relevance couture can still have.
Dresses in nostalgic silhouettes and beautifully anaemic colours - the one on the right is made of countless tiny feathers.
From The Guardian
There is a subtext to this New New Look that goes beyond respect for the house's esteemed founder. In one fell swoop, John Galliano has been all but removed from the Dior history books. By making a visual connection between his era and that of Christian Dior himself, Raf Simons has redrawn the line of succession. The unimpeachable codes of Dior are illustrated for a new generation; the bias-cut dresses and Kabuki styling of Galliano downgraded to a footnote.
"Before the show, I found it difficult to imagine what Raf would do at Dior," admitted Versace, "but from the very first look today it made total sense." Elbaz described the collection as "absolutely poetic. It was perfection. Today was a beautiful marriage between a designer and a house."
Many of the black looks were my favorites - providing emphasis on silhouette and shape, whilst also representing the simplicity, sobriety and strength that Simons is so adept at. The look on the left below worn by Suvi is, for me, one of the standouts and introduces the unfinished-gown idea that is a key concept in the collection.
From Cathy Horyn
The hardest thing to realize in fashion is that the future lies in the past. The second hardest thing is to forget the past. That precise turn of mind is what Raf Simons showed on Monday as he took control of Dior. And there is no other term for it.
In almost every detail, Mr. Simons made a connection to the first decade of the house, when Dior himself was at work. He then put those ideas — among them an architectural purity in construction, a preference for pockets, a sense of femininity but also ease — through his own filter.
It’s probably an exaggeration, though not much of one, to say that Mr. Simons swept aside much of the fashion story of the last 15 to 20 years, not least postmodern irony.
This red coat dress is one of the most beautiful and arresting examples of the stunning simplicity achieved by Simons with the codes of Dior. Pockets are set back as Mr Dior preferred.
Nostalgic ball-dress looks that continued down into cigarette pants were one of my favorite devices in the collection. Nostalgic and modern at the same time.
What did you think of Raf's debut? And did you stay up to watch it?
Image Source: Style.Com
First image from The Guardian