The big fashion question that's still left unanswered is: who's filling the Dior job ever since Raf Simons left it up for grabs last October? We still don't know for certain, but what we do know is that it's not letting Dior get distracted. A full-on Dior takeover came to town yesterday as a whammy of events were celebrated: its new and stunning flagship store on Bond Street (four stories resplendent with shoes, couture, kidswear, homeware, menswear) and, more importantly, the Cruise 2017 collection.
By now you'll know the gist from the giddy circus of sociable imagery to which it all so perfectly lent itself: the Dior express train (a high-fashion version of the Orient Express) complete with smart Dior train guards, the grand and historic Blenheim Palace setting, the 300-strong fleet of cars to transport guests from train to venue amid typical British weather – rain. Cannes, where last season’s cruise collection took place, this was not. But of course the whole shebang also neatly tied into it being the Queen’s 90th birthday and the fact that Dior had formerly showed two of its couture presentations at Blenheim in 1954 and 1958 – Mr. Dior himself was a big fan of the UK and frequently made inspiration trips. So this was very much an ode to French-English relations.
But whereas pre and cruise collections have become so big and fancy of late and akin to a luxury fashion house gladiator battle of who can do it best (we’ve had Chanel take us to Cuba, Louis Vuitton ship us to Rio, and Gucci, too, is taking over London this week), the very fact that Dior had no "notable" name at its head meant that actually the focus was on the clothes, which have been going great guns under the guidance of Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux, who are currently leading the design team. We glimpsed them back in January as they took their bow at couture but the pair have been coming into their own over just these past few collections: Dior feels sharp, fresh, and new.
To this end and with a high society post-war era as inspiration, we had the Dior classics reworked with innovative new direction: the bar jacket ruched to pronounce its shape at the hips, or with sizable and industrial rivets threaded with ribbon scarves; then there came a whole host of beautiful embroidery and embellishment to so perfectly reflect the density of tapestries and the shimmer of chandelier lights hanging up around us. Tea dresses that wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Downton Abbey were dainty but worked and layered to eccentric fashion, shoulders and sleeves puffed up into shape, and shirting came with a utility feel. It was pretty, eclectic yet controlled, combining that quintessential British heritage – those upholstery-style fabrications and embellishments alongside an earthy countryside palette – with the silhouettes of Paris couture.
Of course, there couldn’t help but be that nod to super-layering so coined by Vetements for it’s simply in the fashion air right now. But that’s fine. That’s how to do contemporary countryside style.