Christian Dior Ready To Wear Fall Winter 2013 Paris

Walking into the tent Dior had erected in the shadow of Les Invalides the audience was transported to another world. A place where giant reflective sliver balloons blooming up from the floor or growing out of the ceiling had invaded the show space and divided the guests up in unusual groupings. The scenery obliged the lucky few that had been invited to the show to take circuitous routes to their seats, almost getting lost in the maze of the balloons that mirrored back the image of the audience on itself. Was it a subtle inference for self-examination? Was it a pointed commentary on the vanity aspect of the fashion industry? Whatever the hidden message might have been it certainly made for a surreal set up for Raf Simons sophomore ready to wear collection for the house of Dior.

It was only after the show got underway that it became clear that the message Simons was trying to get across wasn’t a message after all, it was a mood. A surreal mood that-thanks to the reflective balloons- when the first model began to walk across the catwalk she could be perceived in multiple perspectives long before the genuine article circled around one of the spheres. Thus creating a visual tension that heightened the viewing experience to an intense place.

It was in this environment that Simons explored the connection between both his and Mr. Christian Dior’s passion for the art of their respective eras. According to the show notes, Dior began his career in art galleries that represented the likes of Dali and Giacometti and that he was obsessed with the Belle Epoque. Whereas for Simons his passions favor mid-century artists, in particular the distinctive work of Andy Warhol.
“For me Warhol made so much sense,” explained Simons in the notes. “ I was interested in the delicacy and sensitivity in the early work he did, I was drawn to that graphic style naturally in this collection. It was that notion of hand work and personal signature that fitted throughout.”

This collaborative idea as a starting point, the juxtaposition of the two men’s artistic passions on the runway, was a rather complex mélange to make. Simons’s own aesthetic clearly came to the fore. He remained faithful to the feminine silhouettes that the founder first implemented at the house, but he began to loosen up a bit on the strict tailoring making them more real world friendly. So a “Bar” suit came cut in midnight blue denim with wide leg trousers and an easy hourglass shaped jacket or a classic Dior coatdress showed up cut in pitch black leather.

A number of navy and white crochet knit ensembles were graphic standout pieces in this collection. As were the glossy black and white houndstooth bustier top cocktail dresses that finished in asymmetrical skirts. But what many will remember most about this show were the pieces that featured early colorful Warhol sketches of ladies shoes, bouquets of flowers and line drawing profiles of elegant women. The drawings embellished everything from the classic Lady Dior handbags and fabric boots to a crisp white dresses in twill or one in pale rose silk.

They were odd, unexpected and daring moves for someone only two seasons into his new gig. It says a lot about Simons’s character and vision as a designer that he went with something so bold so soon. And while these pieces surly won’t be for everyone they are have become instantly iconic. The combination of the Warhol designs and the more reserved alternatives in this collection show Simons deftly serving both women looking to be identified with the brand in a heartbeat and those just looking for timelessly elegant pieces that put them at their best advantage.

- Jessica Michault