Raf Simons Menswear Spring Summer 2013 Paris

Has Raf Simons' work at Christian Dior started to affect his own signature menswear line? Seems like it. Even though the designer’s debut at Dior, with his first haute couture collection, is still a few days away, the sway of working on that most rare form of womenswear is beginning to show.

The collection started off simply enough: a dark jacket with rounded shoulders paired with an elongated lapeled white button-up shirt. But a quick glance at the short shorts, sliced open just a bit right along the middle of the leg, hinted at where this show was going. That deceptively simple sartorial choice, which had a sexy echo of the side slit on a pencil skirt, was the first indication that Simons was heading down the man/woman path.

Simons came up with a number of different ways to meld the sexes. He turned to typical womenswear fabrics like an eyelet lace, which he used on a jacket and matching top. He chose some bubble gum shades for his outerwear. And with the female friendly artwork of Brian Calvin, wide eye girls with long flowing hair, as a print on long tunic tops (mini dresses?) worn with lace up business shoes. The duality could even be spotted in the models' hair which was styled short on one side and left in long wet waves on the other.

But the clearest and most thrilling blurring came when the designer crafted coats out of fronts cut from classic menswear fabrics and finished them in the back with floral patterned prints sewn into kick pleats.  What made this collection work is that at no point did the menswear take a back seat to its female influences. There was always a masculine strength but one that was clearly in touch with, and not threatened by, its feminine side. Which frankly bodes well for the upcoming Dior haute couture show.

-Jessica Michault