Raf Simons' long-awaited first women's ready-to-wear collection for Christian Dior walked today in Paris. The house was rudderless for a long time after it fired John Galliano, known for his high-falutin' flights of fancy, immediately after he was arrested for directing a racist tirade at a couple of strangers in a café. Dior's search for a new creative director was a long one, and Simons himself only took the job after he was fired from Jil Sander to make way for the German designer's own return to the label that bears her name. The fashion-loving world wanted to know what kind of a match a Belgian minimalist originally best known for his men's wear would make for the storied house of Christian Dior? Today we have our answer: Simons is interested in the house's codes, the bar jacket and the A-line and the H-line (according to the show notes the house live-Tweeted), but he is primarily concerned that they be modern and free.
The show — which you can watch in entirety on the Dior Web site — started with a series of superb skinny black pant suits. The ladies' tux is an Yves Saint Laurent staple, and it was nice to see Simons give his take on le smoking. Each suit was styled with a simple neck scarf. Then the suits morphed into a variety of structured coat-dresses. And having mentioned that live feed, can I just say it was nice for once to see a luxury brand take advantage of online platforms in ways that seemed neither overly commercial (you don't have to "Like" Dior on Facebook or surrender your email address to watch) nor half-assed? The show livestream worked and the live-Tweeted show notes put the looks in context. This way of presenting the show honored the interest of fans precisely because it didn't seem to treat the online audience any differently than it did the seated audience inside the venue.
There were also a number of sharp, deceptively simple black day dresses. I especially liked one with a v-neck and inverted box pleats.
Stripes — which we've seen in any number of collections this season — made an appearance, looking somewhat reminiscent of the broad stripes Simons showed two seasons ago at Jil Sander, which proved a popular trend.
There were a number of short dresses and tunics done in iridescent organza, some of which looked a little fussy. The empire line is not a terribly flattering silhouette for most women — the small-breasted look even flatter than normal, the well-endowed don't fit, and everyone looks pregnant — and these were not the collection's strongest looks.
And while I loved most of the coat-dresses, the ones with little tabs of organza and pleating tacked on at the hemline weren't the best examples of the form.
But there were a number of gorgeous, asymmetrical, pleated tops and dresses in bright colors. And evening gowns that took the idea of transparency suggested by the organza and carried it over into less flashy but more elegant designs. This was a really strong collection, and a promising start for Simons at Dior.