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A box with mirrored sides sat somehow hidden in the Tuileries gardens in the center of Paris. The wintry, bare trees were reflected like a landscape in water, and if this didn't draw attention to the outlines of the cube, one couldn't have been certain whether the structure really existed or whether it was a simple optical illusion. Yet everything inside it was more than real. The brilliant white of the room recalled the snow that had covered Paris for the past three days. A garden had been created, with box hedges in the tradition of the French parterre, as at Versailles; but here their design tells a story that's resolutely modern. The first model appeared, emerging from between the bushes, like a flower growing in its garden. Raf Simons' whole idea was there: the collection as a metaphor for spring, from the very first signs of life emerging from the lingering shadow of winter to the fully-blooming flowers of high summer. "This season, I wanted to do a collection that speaks for itself," the designers explains. "I wanted it to literally be 'in season', so that it conveys the very idea of spring." It's a similar vision of feminity that Monsieur Dior envisioned for his flower-women when he sent out his first collection in 1947 - radiant and romantic confident young women.
It was all about layering, building the show as a developing story, giving the impression that the clothes are unfurling and growing in the set. As is the case with the flower embroideries in successive layers, more and more numerous as the collection progresses, up to the fully-embroidered balloon dresses whose airy outward effect is achieved through a much more complicated construction beneath, testament to the skill of the ateliers. Similarly with the strapless dresses with rigorously-constructed bodices and full, airy skirts. And in the colours, starting with powder, beige, ecru and flesh-tone, and moving to reds with the intensity of poppy or the depth of bordeaux, and greens and pinks in all the nuances that one can find in a garden.
In a nod to history and another time, on February 12, 1947, when Christian Dior unveiled his first haute couture collection, Paris and Avenue Montaigne were covered in a thick blanket of snow. And that snowy white was the same colour as the looks that brought yesterday's show to its gorgeous conclusion.