Raf Simons has been playing around with Christian Dior’s filles fleurs concept in various ways since his arrival at the helm of the French brand in 2012, but the result had never felt as accomplished and self-assured as it did on Monday. Seeing his trademark vertical silhouettes and his clean, pared down cuts - reminiscent of his last few collections at Jil Sander - felt like a breath of fresh air in the otherwise steaming glass panel structure set on the garden of the Musée Rodin. Conceived as a garden of earthly delights of sorts, it was hand painted with colourful pointilliste dots, its floors a kind of purple grass scattered with oversized pieces of round fruit, like an impressionist garden on acid. 'The idea of a forbidden fruit, and its meaning nowadays, intrigued me,' said the designer. 'The contradicting notions of purity and decadence intrigued me. These ideas have always been intrinsic to the Dior garden… Only this time the garden becomes sexual.'
The sex in Simons’s collection, however, was approached from the perspective of crime and punishment rather than a purely epicurean one. The first few looks were ghostly explorations of femininity through evanescent white chiffon tunics sometimes covered by coats. And what coats! Simons masterfully worked around asymmetry and sleeves in a way that was sometimes closer to Cristobal Balenciaga than Christian Dior: less purely opulent, more exacting. There was a Protestant, almost Calvinist spirit in the volumes and the apparently austere neckline details. But the monastic dresses were often covered by a transparent wire netting, a sort of reworking of the maison’s Cannage motif. Or by very Raf-esque sleeveless jacquard knits. A mid-calf red woolen coat and a stunning floor-length blue velvet one conveyed to the silhouette an unsettling sense of verticality. And that sense of unsettlement, that tortured feeling of pleasure and guilt, was what worked best in the collection. It somehow felt like a coming to terms between the spirit of Christian Dior (and the company’s corporate brief) and Simons’s unique genius. At last.