Paris Fashion Week S/S15: The Raf Remix at Dior
A radical approach to tradition is the perfect blueprint for today's Dior woman, writes Dan Ahwa from Paris
If there's one word that's overused in fashion it's "chic". The word, however, genuinely sums up that modern attitude of a Dior show and the Dior woman right now. No longer just the epitome of French elegance and femininity, under artistic director Raf Simons that spirit has been reworked into one that still references the past without being literal. Yes, that bar jacket shape and wasp waist are still here (although, thankfully, this season there is no sign of a strapless bodice), but when you juxtapose these classic Dior codes on models with laissez-faire hair walking at whip-crack speed, a mirrored tent and a thumping Parisian nightclub soundtrack from DJ Michel Gaubert, the results are to put it simply, nothing short of chic.
It's the perfect formula for Simons at Dior, but then a "modern" touch to everything has always been at the heart of his design DNA, from his tenure at Jil Sander to his eponymous menswear line.
But what is modern? That's the question on the designer's mind when breaking down the past with the present. Continuing to democratise the traditions of haute couture, Simons embraces a sprawling cross section of influences that began last couture season in July where 18th century French royal court attire amalgamated with Edwardian long-line coats, embellished astronaut boiler suits and delicate 20s flapper dresses.
Despite the historicism of that and what was presented for spring 2015, the overriding memo is that rules are made to be broken.
"By beginning with the ingredients and the form language of the couture, I want the ready-to-wear to feel more modern, more dynamic, more real," Simons explains. "I want it to be made available to a wider audience."
Those embroidered Marie Antoinette-inspired pannier coats from the last couture presentation have been reworked in shorter lengths with a freer shape away from the body and worn with cool skater shorts and boots that have a hand-knitted overlay. There are plenty of dresses too, some of the best are deceptively simple. A brown silk and wool sheath dress with button-up pockets exaggerated at the hips and worn with a white knitted silk top underneath is a perfect example of elegant restraint. But it is the billowing white cotton shirt dresses with high collars that make a particular impact, reminiscent of crisp Edwardian smock dresses. In a season of plenty of sexy (Balmain, Versace, Altuzarra) and layered Japonism (Loewe, Marni) it is reassuring to see the single layer of a white summer dress can still make an impact.
"It is an idea of confronting what people now think is an aesthetic that is modern - it felt more modern to go to the far past, not the 'modernised' look of the last decade," writes Simons, "The challenge is to bring the attitude of contemporary reality to something very historical; bringing the easiness to something that can be perceived as theatrical. It is the attitude that matters."
Those reflections on the past are what keeps the designer going, and as guests exit the mirrored tent at the Cour Carree du Louvre, their reflections stare back at them with the ancient grandeur of the Louvre in the backdrop. A fitting yin-yang of the past meeting the present, an optical illusion that eschews any historical accuracy. But then Simons won't have it any other way.
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