The mid-afternoon light streamed through the cour carrée du Louvre, beaming onto Raf Simons's most confident Dior collection to date. In his show notes, Simons wrote about taking fashion tropes out of their typical context to create new ideas. Animal prints, for instance, were adventurous when Christian Dior first fell for them in the 1950s. Yet today, they are often considered a neutral. Simons' strategy was to abstract them, using his distinctive sense of color to remove animal prints even further from the obvious.
For instance, the leopard spots on a blue-and-brown swing dress, a pair of rust red-and-teal patent boots, and a slinky pink-and-green column were more like amoebas. He tried a similar trick with florals, making a few overcoats out of a tweed that looked almost like a digitized garden. One of my favorite looks was a sleeveless tweed coat in blush-brown. Two hot-red waves -- maybe they were meant to be abstracted tiger stripes? -- ran across the front, shocking the observer into a fashion trance.
There was a tactile element to what Simons did here: you just wanted to reach out and touch everything. His shiny patent-leather boots with clear or tinted lucite heels were the best examples of this, and are sure to be a hit both editorially and commercially. But he also perforated fabric, and added beaded collars to both white shirting and mini dresses.
Modern is a tired word, but Simons is one of few designers who succeeds at making new things out of old thoughts. He even managed to transform the humble paper clip into a single earring that's sure to sell out as quickly as the house's popular "tribal" stud.
It's fun to watch Simons develop Dior. Not only because he makes interesting clothes that also happen to have commercial appeal, but also because he doesn't seem to be a designer with many limits. There is so much more potential here, and that's an exciting prospect.