PARIS--The reflective plastic that covered the tent for yesterday’s Dior couture show in the Tuileries made the venue look almost invisible--I could barely make it out until I was about four feet from the tent itself and I saw the Dior logo etched faintly above the door. Inside the tent a meticulously manicured garden, designed by Martin Wirtz, spread out before me. A white path snaked its way around green shrubs and still dormant trees. A gardener was still at work pruning the side of a bush as I walked to my seat. A French garden isn’t a natural process but a fastidiously maintained human endeavor much like couture clothes. “I wanted it to literally be about the season; to be about the very idea of spring,” Raf Simons said in the line sheets placed atop our seats. Spring not because this is a spring couture collection but spring as an idea of renewal. The first model emerged wearing a strapless icy sky blue gown with a black satin fold at the bust--perhaps a reference to a blue spring sky. Then came the hourglass dresses, this time in acid yellow silk, and the bell-shaped classics done in organza and tulle and embroidered with stripes of silk. Familiar silhouettes were revived from last July’s debut couture outing--like an embroidered floral bustier over pleat-front wool pants (on look 13)--but there seemed to be more ease about them this go round. Intricate floral embroideries appeared subtly on the front panel of a strapless gown or over a tulle cut-out on a strapless black column gown. An icy blue cropped silk top worn over a corset of embroidered flowers (look 15) demonstrated the prowess of the flou and tailleur ateliers and Simons’ skill in using them. (The flou atelier specializes in fabrics like chiffon, organza, tulle and silk while the tailleur atelier specializes in structured clothes like jackets, pants and coats.)
By the end of the show, floral embroideries had multiplied to cover dresses entirely. Simons clearly understands that couture techniques are organic, that couture does not need to be heavy handed.
The ease with which Simons has settled into his new role at Dior is remarkable. With his second couture show, he clearly demonstrated not only his firm grasp of the fundamentals of the house but a way forward.