Designer's heads are spinning, both because of the punishing pace of fashion (4, 6, 12, 16, maybe more, collections a year, depending on where you work) and because no one seems quite sure about whether to look forward or back. That constant movement between turning to the future and whizzing around and glancing back again is what's making fashion so interesting right now. Numerous designers this season alone have dedicated their collection to that dichotomy - to how the past can feel more relevant than the now. Alessandro Michele did it at Gucci. Muiccia Prada also pondered it at Prada, with a little help from artist Christophe Chemin. It's something Raf Simons was obsessed with during his time heading up the womenswear at Dior, but he's gone now, so Van Assche no longer has to concern himself with complimenting those obsessions or interests. That doesn't make life any easier. Simons' skill with menswear may not be hanging over Van Assche anymore, but rumours are rife in Paris about who'll be heading up the house, with Dior Homme alumnus Hedi Slimane's name being shouted the loudest in the days running up to this A/W 16 show (though many doubt that's true). With ghosts from the past threatening a return, it must be a strange feeling in the house. Van Assche is clearly taking it day by day. He was obsessed with relevance for A/W 16 - what feels 'now' even if it's technically old?
So, the official line was that this collection was all about what's current, but it winded up looking like a festival of nostalgia. There were shoutouts to styles from the seventies, eighties and nighties, and new wave and skate-culture stood out as the key themes. But maybe that's apt. The old feels modern. It feels fresh. A grungey get-up featuring big baggy pants, skate chains clipped to the hip or retro puffas probably looks appealing both to a generation who lived through it the first time and are poised for it to come round again, or to a fresh set of fashion-hungry kids who won't remember the originals.
The models walked through a set designed to resemble a skatepark - all ramps and halfpipes lit up in red to compliment the hues of the collection. Above them, also in brilliant red, hung a huge, almost vulgar, chandelier. A skatepark and a chandelier - the street and traditional luxury, brought together. Those two things highlight Van Assche's focus, and challenge, at Dior. How does one combine modernity and ease with a house that made a name with feminine elegance and, to a degree, opulence? Well, the chandelier side of things came through in the nods to Mr Dior - the rose prints and the slim, crisp formal tailoring. The skatepark in the oversized outerwear, the bondage elements, the shrunken knits. Behind the models, a video by imagemaker Willy Vanderperre projected flashes of red and white light over the runway. It featured the same models that walked before us on the catwalk, shot in the same clothes, but a different context, and a few days before. Then and now. Time - that seemed to be on Van Assche's mind. Past, present. The best way to handle the future. What's next? The clock is ticking.