The first collection by Raf Simons for the house of Dior opens up haute couture to new perspectives. Today, it's all a question of attitude.
Is it a fashion show? No, it's much more than that: it's a manifesto. The first haute couture collection from the designer Raf Simons, shown earlier today, isn't just an assembly of wardrobe suggestions for next winter, nor even uniquely his vision of the Dior woman. It's about wiping the slate clean and starting again from scratch – and a total redefinition of haute couture, of all it is, and all it stands for. Christian Dior's New Look, the revolutionary silhouette that put the spotlight on the female form divine, responds to a new type of couture today: in 2012 femininity is an attitude. What Raf Simons understood before everyone else is that, at this point in time, the couture woman is looking for more than just being dressed: she wants to express herself. Refusing to be bound by the type of convention that makes straitjackets of her clothes, if she feels like putting her hands in the pockets of her ballgown, then so be it! The glamorous evenings of today are not like those of yesteryear, and these looks for modern nights out, couture in their inspiration and down to the last detail, are slashed, dissected, cut up, deconstructed and reassembled. Among the numbers, the characteristics of the famed Esther dress with its huge yardage of fabric are identifiable. But this new version finishes defiantly at the thighs, as if sliced with a scalpel. On the torso, it's all couture splendor; on the legs it has the attitude, the look, and the modernity of a skinny black pant. Gala evenings, most definitely, but women today no longer go to the ball to twirl in endless skirts and petticoats, they want to dance. And they must do so with couture allure.
This new femininity isn't solely Raf Simons' personal vision, it's rooted in the perfection inherent in the storied history of the house of Dior. The Bar jacket with its unmistakably Dior silhouette – narrow waist, peplum-accentuated hips – runs like a thread throughout the show.
Opening proceedings with a tuxedo incarnation, the shape of things to come is pared-down and pure. Reduced to its architectural essence, it evolves from look to look, on a dress here, rising to the throat there: the Bar jacket coming to represent an idea of a silhouette, a theoretic line. Devoid of reinforcing, it stands on its own merits of construction, a challenge met with deceptively effortless aplomb by the ateliers. The very life force of the house of Dior lies in pushing the limits of its savoir-faire. Complex weaves recall painter Sterling Ruby's canvasses, printed on duchess satin, mille-feuilles of multi-hued mesh, shaded floral embroideries, densely-colored furs - all testify to the inimitable talent contained within the house's walls.
And, finally, the flowers, that essential stylistic element beloved by Christian Dior. They appeared printed, woven or embroidered in all his collections; he cultivated them passionately in his gardens; they were the direct inspiration for his history-making Corolle line. The flowers that provided the first visual shock today were present before the show even started, the guests arriving to discover the breathtaking decor that Raf Simons had envisioned to act as a frame for his collection: walls covered with hundreds of thousands of flowers transport us instantly to Christian Dior's childhood garden in Granville, Normandy. Thus the flower makes its entrance, worked into the lines of the clothes, and a woman abloom with architectural prowess.
Tomorrow, on DiorMag, we bring you an exclusive interview with Raf Simons, and stay tuned throughout the week to discover the show's inner workings.