When Raf Simmons presented his last collection for Jil Sander (which was sublime) before handing over the reins to the rightful designer, Ms.Sanders herself, we knew he was destined for greatness. Last week, at the debut of Simmons first haute couture Christian Dior collection, that greatness was on display in spades. It was one of the most anticipated fashion events in years, with hysteria outside and the industry’s greatest - Donatella Versace, Marc Jacobs, Alber Elbaz, Riccardo Tisci, Olivier Theyskens, and L’Wren Scott – seated front and center. The show was a triumph and as style.com put it, ” The avant-garde outsider from Antwerp insinuated himself into the hallowed history of haute couture with a tour de force that had both emotional and intellectual resonance”.
The first look—a tuxedo whose jacket was shaped after Dior’s iconic Bar jacket, one of the most distinctive silhouettes in fashion – was an eye to Dior’s formal past and the streamlined future which was embodied in a key silhouette – a full-skirted classic ball gown abbreviated at the peplum, its skirt replaced by black silk cigarette pants – made for a collection best described as a “meeting in the middle”.
Raf may have brought his modern sense of simplicity with him to Dior but he never forsook Dior’s reverence towards the hourglass figure or the house’s penchant for femininity. There was a lightness of touch and Simmon’s fondness for a sense of fun was infused into the collection – a sleek evening sheath of scarlet crepe, open in back to reveal yet another pair of pants and a fur dress with a black mink bodice melting into a broadtail pencil skirt.
While I still miss the brilliance of John Galliano (though not his antics), if Raf Simmon’s first collection for Dior is to be at all telling then we will have a different form of excellence, one that is understated but no less elegant.
View the whole collection here.