Saturday, November 17, 2012


Raf Simons had already cleared two hurdles before today’s collection hit the runway. Firstly, he’d designed a farewell Jil Sander collection that was luminously beautiful and softly feminine enough to qualify as the best collection Christian Dior never designed; and secondly, he’d translated that vision into a cleaner, color-saturated couture presentation set in a mansion he’d transformed into a wonderland of flowers.
 So today all he had to do was present some clothes. Which he did (nicely, with some stumbles). There were slim black trouser suits, and short diagonal-striped dresses; there were shifts folded into careful overlays (flattened petals?), and subtle texture splices, and sheaths swathed in iridescent veils. At times it was absolutely convincing, if anachronistically respectful – like the looks which closed the show, billowing flower splashed skirts soaring away from skintight bodies. But there were detours that felt like lapses of concentration, with sudden spurts of digital prints, and heavy embroidery that clung to jackets like marooned limpets. And there was one dress – a laser cut white A-line shape, sliced open to reveal a fluorescent yellow interior – that felt like it deserved to have been star of a much bigger story. 
In his autobiography, Christian Dior was at pains to describe (or defend?) his career in disarmingly prosaic terms. He was the head designer of a couture house, producing clothes for the wealthy; but his responsibility (his words) was to provide a line. The H, the A, the Y, the Arrow, the Magnet, the Oblique: silhouettes whose resonance and popularity would translate his vision into a world beyond the walls of couture – and ensure the house’s survival in both critical and commercial terms. These days, you could well query whether ‘responsibility’ is the right word – but perhaps it’s more like ‘need’. And amidst all those intriguing half-finished sequences, establishing a single essential idea was the one thing that Simons didn’t do.
 Nice clothes, some stumbles. It wasn’t the dazzling benchmark that it might have been. But however you look at it, this was just as much a showdown as a show. And the jury will stay out till Hedi Slimane unveils his Saint Laurent collection in three days time; an eternity in which today’s mix of serene silhouette and high-definition fluorescence might have settled into popular acclaim – or been quietly forgotten.


Christian Dior Boutique

Mall of the Emirates, Level 1, Store 522
United Arab Emirates


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