by Alex R. Travers
These days, a Christian Dior collection is hard to figure. Not whether it’s good or not. All of us have been watching Raf Simons’ Dior with eager eyes, and we can get that right. What’s difficult to pin down is the target audience.
Really, I suppose, it doesn’t matter all that much. Today, fashion is entirely global. Europe has an influence on America and vice versa. But it was an interesting choice to present the Resort 2015 collection in Brooklyn—“Of course,” Christian Dior wrote in his 1957 autobiography, “there is absolutely no question of living in Brooklyn: it seems much further away than Connecticut or Long Island, which are actually far more distant but are admissible residential areas for Café Society”—and not for the geeky reasons that Monsieur Dior sailed here in 1949 on the Queen Elizabeth or had branches set up with ready-to-wear looks adapted for the U.S. markets. Americans have always been fans of Christian Dior and his successors, but are we now the number one supporters of this new house of Dior?
On the Manhattan docks last night were young men in matching Christian Dior crackerjacks, escorting editors onto yellow water taxis emblazoned with the Dior logo in white vinyl lettering. The set at the Brooklyn Navy Yard—raised, outfitted with metallic mirrors, and lined with LED displays of scarf patterns from the Dior archives—was impressive (LVMH Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault seems to have no problem letting Simons spend serious bucks on his sets).
The collection was attractive enough. Conjure up some ideas by cutting and pasting images like a collage—Simons doesn’t sketch—and you know what you’ll get: textures, shapes, rhythms…clothing as architecture? Maybe that’s a stretch, but there was a sort of offbeat charm to it all. The asymmetrical earrings, for instance, or his camisole dresses with Pointillistic tops, floral corsets, and airy skirts that ended right at the knee. His design ethos seemed to fit right in with what American women want, based on their responses. A bouclé tweed jacket became a dress. Trainers had their tops slashed off and were decorated and tied at the ankle with silk scarves, the way Grace Kelly effortlessly tied her Hermès scarves to her bags. And, as he did with the haute couture in January, eyelet holes were cut to reveal flashes of flesh or blur the print on a blouse. There was much more, but cataloging the 66 looks would belabor a collection that was characterized by the lightness of a carré.
Ever since Simons started at Dior, functionality has played a major role in his collections, couture included. His latest show took that notion and underscored it, giving his clothes fluidity and his footwear a new freshness. Oh, yes, those scarf-wrapped trainers? They were one of those oddly charming statements that actually moved fashion forward. That’s why designers like Raf Simons must be admired all the more.