Long Nguyen is the co-founder and style director of Flaunt.
PARIS--Half of the anticipation of this Paris fashion season is over.
Beneath the imposing gold dome of Les Invalides, where Napoléon is buried, Dior's new creative director Raf Simons erected a temporary show space: A rectangular building with irregular shaped windows. Whereas in seasons past, Dior has shown in a tent inside the courtyard of the Rodin Museum or inside the Tuileries, where elaborately decorated sets illustrated the themes of the collection (like an old harbor for a nautical themed collection), this space was a simple white box made of drywall, its windows covered by rose or light green chiffon curtains. It was a new locale and surely a new approach to redefining Dior for today’s audience.
If there was a theme to Raf Simons' debut ready-to-wear collection for Dior it was liberation. Liberation, which is so central to Dior's heritage, as it was Christian Dior's "New Look" in 1947 that instantly erased the harsh memories of the limitations imposed by World War II and embraced femininity in fashion once again. And it was a liberation for Raf Simons, too, who wanted to move beyond his own minimalist heritage by injecting a bit of sensuality and emotion into his pared down style. With this spring collection, Simons' wiped clean Dior's recent troubled past. He embraced the house's heritage to serve not as a tribute but as a philosophical foundation for a new sartorial vocabulary. “There was an idea of restrictions and then a psychological freeing up," Simons said in the press notes. "The foundation of the house is a reaction to restrictions. I wanted to do that too." That meant taking the classic "Bar" jacket as a jumping off point and transforming it and evolving it: First we saw the jacket over slim tuxedo pants, the tailoring on which demonstrated the technical skill of the atelier, and then it evolved fluidly into a series of mini jacket dresses.
The Ligne A shapes invented by Dior for his spring 1955 collection--a flared jacket worn with a full pleated skirt (you might know it better as the A-line silhouette)--were transformed into the jacket-dress, a leitmotif for the collection, with intricate pleating at the front and some in the back seams. Then there were a series of A-line dresses this time with sheer tulle overlay revealing a subtle bit of embroiderie underneath. A series of shiny pastel organza corset cropped tops were worn with shorts rendering this sexy mini silhouette the central focus of his ready-to-wear collection.
Without a doubt, Simons has firmly established a solid ground here with many ideas that will germinate in his future collections. Exiting the show, little remained of what we knew as Dior the past several years. What we were left with were the building blocks for the new Dior.
Still, this ultra modern treatment of the show and the collection by no means erased the Galliano era, where the designer propelled Dior forward in his own manner. Simons’ show returned Dior to a fashion house where the clothes are the primary focus. In an age where fashion houses rely so heavily on accessories and perfumes as the main contributions to the bottom line, it was refreshing to see fashion take center stage again at Dior.