Fashion Critics Are More Concerned about Raf Simons's Replacement than the Dior Couture Collection

Perhaps preoccupied by the Dior hire rumor mill, critics viewed the haute couture spring 2016 collection as 'neither here nor there.'
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Dior head designers Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux. Photo: Imaxtree

Dior head designers Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux. Photo: Imaxtree

Following the Dior couture show in Paris on Monday, the industry's top fashion critics were tasked with assessing the French fashion house's first collection since Raf Simons's surprising departure in October. Instead of spotlighting their personal perspectives on the collection, insiders were more consumed by questions, particularly: Who will be the new hire for Dior? (And if the rumors are true, will it be Sarah Burton? Or perhaps Olivier Rousteing, Riccardo Tisci or Joseph Altuzarra?) 

The reviews applauded head designer duo Serge Ruffieux and Lucie Meier's efforts in successfully leading the in-house team for Dior's couture presentation — as they will for the upcoming fall ready-to-wear runway show — while LVMH execs decide on a creative director, but critics seemed pretty indifferent to the collection across the board. The absence of a "visionary," dubbed by multiple critics below, was very evident, and we predict that sense of longing for a leader will continue into Paris Fashion Week — and until the powers that be finally decide on who will fill Simons's shoes. Read on for the roundup.

Tim Blanks, Business of Fashion

"The first outfit's portrait neckline and bifurcated skirt said that, at the very least, Simons' questioning approach to couture wasn't about to disappear. Then something strange happened. The dissection of feminine dress codes that followed suggested not Dior, but Prada. That was an issue in a couture collection. The guipure lace, the slouchy necklines, the clashing contracts of pattern and texture made pretty pictures for Dior, but they felt familiar. Amanda Murphy opened Prada's show for Fall 2013 spectacularly, in a dress that slid sideways. Here she was again, same mood.

… The world was probably waiting for Meier and Ruffieux to fall flat on their faces. The average Joe isn't partial to the triumph of others. So he'd have been happy here. No triumph. But the vintage, unfinished, tucked and draped mood of the collection drew maps for the future, if there is allowed to be one. Couture needs to court a younger clientele. It's a massive tease to imagine them responding to these clothes."

Susie Bubble, Dazed

"And yet there was a sense that perhaps this collection looked a little like Dior par Raf by numbers. The design team have done an admirable job given the circumstances and the layered skirts, ruffled tops and 'Bar' jacket/coat iterations will probably do brisk trade in the couture fitting rooms. But the absence of a creative director was palpable.

... Without the individual personas, the distinct taste levels and the distinguished aesthetics, a house can feel hollow. The reflections of these beautiful iterations of Raf's residual vision, coming and going from the mirrored set, felt transient, awaiting the arrival of someone that has something to say."

Vanessa Friedman, The New York Times

"Rather, it is being led by Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux, the heads of studio under the former artistic director Raf Simons, who are filling his shoes on an interim basis. It is their job to advance the vision he left behind without being too wildly assertive about their own ideas, so as to allow the next artistic director, whoever he or she may be (and the rumors are rife), to take the brand in a new direction.

... It meant high-waisted pencil skirts, a stiff ruffle climbing over the waist and jutting out weirdly at the hips, three-dimensional lily of the valley and insect beading that referred to Mr. Dior's favorite charms, but in a tougher, more dangerous way; and odd proportions that were potentially provocative to consider, but not particularly pretty to wear (corset minidresses with long sheer skirts attached). It meant the collection as a whole looked neither here nor there."

Alexander Fury, Independent

"That plurality of voice isn't necessarily a bad thing. As much as we adore the romantic image of fashion designer as autocratic créateur, the reality of a creative team collaborating to realise a single goal was depicted by Frédéric Tcheng in his documentary, Dior and I, charting Simons' first collection for the house. But if there's no head honcho, who decides the goal? That's the issue here. Alongside the fit, which wasn't up to haute-couture standards on roughly two thirds of the pieces, where waists gaped and shoulders sagged. That will be rectified for the clients; I think they will order pieces. There was good stuff there. But really, this show was to tread water and bide time; create something new, achieve something tricky. Perhaps, sans Simons, that was the sole goal? If so, it was achieved."

Suzy Menkes, Vogue.com UK

"But what was the real story behind this collection, which was youthful in its mildly aggressive way?… I kept seeing flashes of Raf in tailored pieces, even when they were set askew. A deep blue dress cut to slurp over one shoulder made a stylish ankle-length dress. But there was not much sense of the romanticism of Monsieur Dior himself - nor of the same spirit in the Galliano years.

… Was it all about "couture's new realism", as the show notes suggested? I saw a vague influence of Vetements, the ready-to-wear collective that has captured a style of easy, gender-loose freedom. Or maybe the clothes were designed to approach that illusion of the "new normal", which would indeed be new for rarefied haute couture."

Sarah Mower, Vogue Runway

"What it skipped was a sense of grandeur or build-up. There was no ball gown finale to answer the hanging question as to what Jennifer Lawrence might wear to the Academy Awards—though that's usually arranged as a bespoke off-runway matter anyway. The bigger question is who will be brought in to take over the direction of this house. There is talent in the ranks of Dior, and it may be that, long-term, this baptism of fire will produce stars. Shorter term, the fashion world waits to find out who will become Dior's next visionary leader."

Miles Socha, WWD

"During a preview, Ruffieux and Meier cited a strong complicity, and a freewheeling approach to interpreting the archive, emphasizing a 'wardrobe of pieces' to give women freedom. Noting that Dior was known for striking décolleté, they engineered coats and evening dresses that slipped intentionally off the shoulders as a gesture of Parisian seduction.

These often registered as forced on the runway, contrary to their easy-to-wear ethos. On the plus side, they pointed to a heightened femininity that suits the storied house. To be sure, some of the flou numbers were striking, including a barely-there lilac chiffon gown with two sewn-on ruffles and a smattering of embroideries."