Fashion is a vicious cycle. The clothes that came down the runways in New York, where the collections originated, and those that marched down the catwalks in Milan, destined to be worn next spring, seem light years away, now that the Paris collections are in full swing. The clothes that the French are currently offering fashion editors, buyers, and celebrities alike will, in about six months’ time, be a distant memory once the cycle begins again. Only a handful of these collections will remain etched in the minds of those who follow fashion as religiously as one might follow the presidential election on TV. I think it’s safe to say that Raf Simons’ début ready-to-wear défilé for Christian Dior is one of those rare collections that will have a lasting impact, one that would mature and perhaps even endure in the collective consciousness.
The Belgium-born Simons, Maison Dior’s newly-appointed creative director, replacing the disgraced John Galliano, sent out a 53-piece collection that seemed fresh and young, innovative yet unpretentious, unburdened by the weight of history as baffling as the frilly eighteenth-century and the anything-goes chic of the 1920s that Dior’s former designer advocated season after season. The clothes that Simons showed are quite simple: not deceptively but genuinely. They require no further inspection other than the knowledge that they are lovely to look at. A belted cocktail dress looked arrestingly modern as is, but the designer attached an overlay of pink organza shaped like a triangle, an obvious nod to Dior’s famous “A-line” silhouette that took the world by storm in 1955, a look that will certainly be reinterpreted in myriad ways in 2013. The perennial tuxedo jacket was given star billing in the show: hourglass-shaped blazers that did not scream YSL circa 1966 but, instead, recalled a leggy, tuxedo-clad Judy Garland in the finale of Summer Stock, belting out the feel-good ditty “Get Happy.” Eveningwear echoed the pared down attitude of the daytime pieces, which included a black long-sleeved jersey sweater paired with an ankle-grazing iridescent ballskirt printed with large 3D roses in pastel shades: a post-modern homage to Dior’s penchant for extravagant ballgowns. The opening ensemble—a slim tuxedo pantsuit—set the tone brilliantly, but it was the airy dresses that succinctly encapsulated the message Simons so elegantly imparts: freedom. A standout evening dress of sequined midnight-blue with a tent-like overlay of tulle was an outright tribute to Dior’s 1958 “Trapeze” collection designed by a child prodigy with the name of Yves Saint Laurent.
No one was more miscast than Monsieur Dior in the role of fashion revolutionary; he looked more like a country bumpkin or, to be charitable, a middle-aged provincial doctor. But, as those in fashion only know too well, looks are deceiving. Simons, a forty-something straight man who resembles a Sorbonne professor, will have more opportunities to prove his worth at Dior. But, as he has shown in this highly promising collection, he is one of the chosen few who will point fashion in the right direction.