Temptation. Desire. The forbidden. The forsaken. Raf Simons conjured up all these emotions in the audience of his Fall/Winter 2015 Christian Dior haute couture show. Starting with the idea of the garden of earthly delights, the designer proposed a collection that was femininity incarnate. But one that was also encased, enveloped, and just a tad éloigner from today – pointing out where fashion will be tomorrow.
Inside an open air show space crafted out of clear plastic panels covered in colorful pointillist art that looks as if it had been done by a giant with talent, Simons showed a collection that challenged convention. Sumptuous A-line cloak-like coats were proffered up with a single sleeve, sometimes in fur, with just a buttoned up slit on the other side for the models to slip their arm through to clutch the coat fabric to their bosom. Or, alternatively, they appeared with large muff cuffs that hung down to the model’s fingers. Dresses, both short and long, were outfitted with metal harness gilets or tunics or sometimes featured long chain choke collar necklaces. Both of these couture accessories felt as if they alluded to an imposed chastity of sorts.
“The idea of purity and innocence versus luxury and decadence and how that is encapsulated by the idea of Dior’s garden – no longer a flower garden but a sexual one,” explained Simons, in his show notes, about the evocative inspiration of the collection.
For every knockout feather speckled dress, or its printed alternative, there was one crafted out of beaded flower panels with the side left open to expose the naked body of the models in profile as they walked by. A dichotomy of design that was also felt in the way the collection was presented. No build up to a finale of evening gowns on the Dior catwalk. Daywear, coats, and gowns would mix and mingle on the runway – moving from a short ensemble to an impressive coat or a gown and then back to a mini dress design. It was almost as if Eve, with all her new choices now that she had been thrown out of the Garden of Eden, didn’t know where to start first, so she just decided to wear it all, as the mood suited her.
And it is this sort of defiance that feels at the heart of the Dior brand today. Simons is railing against conventionality and déjà vu. He is taking a risk to leave the beauty we know for an innovative estimation of what that word entails. In so doing he has pushed the haute couture industry, and its customers, to a place where stepping out of one’s comfort zone seems like exactly the right place to be.